Up in the Air: Americans Board Planes without Government Issued Identification

Up in the Air: Americans Board Planes without Government Issued Identification

When you think of airport security in the US today, you most likely picture long lines, TSA agents and fumbling to pull out your government issued ID. Security appears to be very strict and very time consuming. Would you believe that a person can get through security and board a plane showing only their Costco membership card and credit card? Probably not. However, as an Acuant employee can testify first hand – and survey results prove – this is not a rare occurrence.

Acuant is revealing this and more surprising results from a national consumer survey of 1,000 adult Americans conducted by Wakefield Research.

Surprising Stats

60% of Americans report they have boarded a plane without proper identification and more than half (51%) say they have passed through security using some form of ID that didn’t include a photo at all (marriage license, credit card, etc.) When looking at the data from a generational perspective, Millennials (75%) are more likely to have used an alternative form of ID than either Generation X (65%) or Baby Boomers (45%). You can view more survey results here.

Biometrics and Document Authentication: Ready for Takeoff

Americans seem ready to fully embrace technology that makes their lives easier and speeds up tedious processes. While convenience is the consumer mantra, sometimes this is at the expense of data privacy and even safety. When it comes to travel and airports, Americans view verification technology as a positive solution: 84% of Americans believe that biometrics will improve travelers’ airport experience, and the majority (59%) say that biometrics will increase safety because of improved identification accuracy.

In the wake of REAL ID, a nationwide federal act meant to protect against identity fraud, Americans are proving ready to embrace new processes at the airport as well. Almost half (46%) of respondents would feel safe and comfortable using ePassports, which are passports with biometric information, and nearly as many (45%) would be on board with using digital IDs, meaning IDs that can be presented on a smartphone to confirm their identity.

Bringing Airports into the 21st Century

Over the next three years, 77% of airports and 71% of airlines are planning major programs or R&D in biometric ID management to smooth curb-to-gate passenger flow.

Just last month the TSA released details surrounding the TSA Biometrics Roadmap for Aviation Security and the Passenger Experience. The initiative will guide the agency’s biometric efforts to modernize aviation passenger identity verification in the coming years.

Many experts – including those of us here at Acuant – believe that flying doesn’t have to be the tedious, stressful experience it has become. The adoption of fast and easy identity verification via document authentication that can be tied to biometrics, EIDs and other technologies has the potential to make flying a frictionless and fun experience again. Imagine not having to look for and present IDs of any kind.

Our conversations with our partners and customers in the airline industry all underline the desire to create a frictionless travel experience for customers. We believe that identity proofing and secure token generation/enrollment processes are critical to the mitigation of the risks that these new techniques introduce to the well-established security controls that are currently in place.

Acuant’s mission when it comes to any industry is to strengthen security while putting the power back into the hands of the consumer and improving their experience.



download the travel survey infographic


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