Here’s How to Board a Plane if Your ID Is Lost or Stolen

It's a nightmare situation you want to avoid at all costs. But should you get to the airport with only an hour before your flight and realize you can't find your ID, here's what to do.

Young man with backpack in airport near flight timetableSergey Furtaev/ShutterstockContrary to what most believe, it is possible to board a plane without an ID, says Valerie Wilson, a travel expert, writer and founder of the travel site, Understand that it may be harder (or impossible) for international travel and you may have to take a later flight, but it is still possible. (Next time, be prepared by avoiding these 10 travel mistakes that make your trip stressful.)  Here’s how:

1. Let the airline know ASAP. “You will also need to go through advanced screening measures and everything in your bags may be subject to search,” she says. So, be prepared to submit to this extensive screening.

2. Figure out what you have on you to identify yourself. “Surprisingly, many full-time travelers say their best resource has been their Costco card! Other things that will be helpful: prescriptions, credit cards, bills, bank statements, library card, business card, a copy of your lease… anything that can help them confirm your identity,” says Wilson. Another tip: Keep an electronic copy of your passport on your phone. (Be sure to delete it when you’re not traveling.)

3. Be extra kind and patient with everyone. “Although you may be stressed, the people who are trying to confirm your identity have the ability to help you—or not—at their discretion,” says Wilson. “TSA isn’t always a good experience, but even if someone is curt with you, try to grin and bear it!”

4. If you are flying internationally, you will need a passport on arrival, so this is a no-brainer—you cannot board. However, Wilson says, “Major U.S. cities have passport offices with the ability to process an emergency passport the same day. If you have enough time, it’s worth a try!”

5. Be prepared to explain your situation. “The agents may ask where you think you lost your ID, where you are flying, etc… obviously if you knew where you lost it, it would probably be with you, but take each question in stride. Be completely honest and again… be nice!” says Wilson. And in 2025, you’ll most likely need to have a Real ID.

“At security you may encounter an agent who doesn’t realize someone can fly without an ID, kindly ask for someone who is more familiar with the procedures for this particular issue,” advises Wilson.

Read on for this scary situation of flight vs flock.