ID for 16-year-old flying alone?
My 16yo daughter will be flying from Oakland to LA in a couple of weeks. I'm completely confident about her ability to handle the flight -- she is a seasoned traveler who has done much longer flights without an adult. But what's the process for photo ID when a teen flies alone? Her passport just expired, she doesn't have a driver's license yet, and a state photo ID would probably take too long to process. Do I need to go to the counter or the security line with her?
Jun 8, 2017
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My teenage son and daughter have flown alone several times on Southwest. My understanding is that TSA does not require valid photo ID for anyone under 18, and airlines match this. On Southwest, no ID was required for my 15 year old. We always sent along her school ID knowing that it wasn't valid, but she was not asked for any ID, either by Southwest when checking a bag or by the TSA agent. When my son flew alone at age 16, he had his driver's license and used it since he had it.
Might want to check with the airline. United says that a school photo id is acceptable: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/airport/id/travel.aspx
My daughter turned 18 this past September and flew alone a couple times before turning 18. I don't remember her being asked for ID at all -- I think she was just asked to say her name. I may have shown my own ID at the counter, though I have already forgotten. Definitely did not have to go to the security line with her.
I'd go to the DMV today to get her a state ID card. The processing time for driver's licenses has been really fast (about a week). They'll tell you 6-8 weeks but it isn't taking that long. I'd also go to your local passport office and order a rush renewal. My wallet got stolen a few days before a trip and my passport was expired. It was a nightmare. I was able to get past security in SF because I had signed up for Clear in the past. But coming home was terrible. I had my expired passport with me, my temporary driver's license, an original birth certificate, a certified marriage license, and a police report and I barely made it onto the plane. Remember that you won't be with her for her return flight so I wouldn't rely on you being able to get her through security.
I believe she can use her expired passport to prove her ID. You can also get a pass at the counter when she checks in that will allow you to go through security and take her all the way to the gate. You should probably call the airline to be sure. Does she have a school ID? That should work too.
My son got his CA ID from El Cerrito DMV last week - it came in under 7 days including the weekend.
Airport security asks how old a person is. If they say "under 18" (and look over 12 and under 18), no ID is required.
My son has been flying solo since age 12. A school ID will suffice for flights within the US.It's good for your child to fly with some ID in any case. Carrying the expired passport along is another option. You can also call SWA (1800- I FLY SWA) and ask them-no charge for a question. If you find out anything different, let us know.
Original poster here... Thanks for all the helpful advice!
It all went fine. I called Southwest to get more clarification, then went to the check-in counter with her to make sure that there weren't any issues. There weren't and she had a great trip. On her return flight she was traveling with her friend's family and that, too, was smooth sailing.