McCarran Airport Passengers Without New IDs Soon Could Be Turned Away By TSA

Posted on: April 22, 2021, 09:24h. 

Last updated on: April 23, 2021, 02:53h.

Las Vegas-bound tourists are among the domestic airline passengers who likely will need upgraded IDs to board a plane starting in October. But so far, nationally only 43 percent of Americans have gotten what are called “Real ID” versions of their driver’s licenses.

Most Americans still have old forms of driver’s licenses
TSA agents on airport duty shown here. The agents in Las Vegas and elsewhere will require Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses or other acceptable ID come October to board a plane under national regulations for domestic passengers. (Image: KLAS)

Real ID licenses are issued by individual states. They appear similar to traditional driver’s licenses. But they have more precautions to prevent tampering or duplication.

The upcoming requirement could particularly impact last-minute travelers to Las Vegas from locations such as California, who have chosen not to get or are unaware of the new licenses.

If you’re planning to fly to Las Vegas on a whim, you should be aware of this new recommendation to avoid any issues during your trip,” said Sergio Avila, a spokesman for the AAA of Northern California, Nevada & Utah, to

He confirms that if someone located close to Nevada does not have the required ID, they could end up driving instead of boarding a plane. “There may be some travelers who decide to drive from California to Las Vegas if they don’t have the required Real ID …,” Avila said.

“I cannot speculate on the impact this may have. However, we are aiding in the efforts to educate the public on this change,” McCarran International Airport spokesman Joe Rajchel told, about the Real ID requirement.

The number of passengers using McCarran is expected to increase in the coming months, given the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. Numbers dropped from the pandemic.

For instance, in February, 1.6 million arriving and departing passenger made their way through McCarran, compared to almost 3.9 million in February 2020.

Real ID Response to Sept. 11

Congress passed The Real ID Act in 2005. It was largely a response to the terrorist acts on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Real ID is intended to improve the reliability and accuracy of driver licenses and identification cards while inhibiting the ability of terrorists and others to evade detection by using fraudulent identification,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers explained to

Starting on Oct. 1, TSA agents stationed at airports will require Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses or other limited forms of ID for those who want to board a plane. Every traveler 18 and older will need one to get past security checkpoints.

Domestic airline passengers can also use a valid passport, federal government PIV card, or US military ID to get past TSA agents, Avila said. Other Real ID state-issued identity cards are also allowed.

The use of Real IDs was scheduled to take effect in 2020. But the requirement was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between the new ID requirements, continuing safeguards to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and other changes, travelers need to plan ahead for their flights and trips this year, Avila said.

Anyone traveling in 2021 should be aware the travel experience will be extremely different from what you’re used to,” Avila said.

Even though the law creating the new ID was enacted several years ago, most Americans still have old forms of driver’s licenses. Only recently did all 50 states’ Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices become compliant with the law, ABC News reported.

As of this month, only about 119 million of the 274 million state-issued driver licenses and IDs nationwide are Real ID-compliant, according to Dankers, citing government data. That is a 43 percent adoption rate. 

Get in Line

Many state DMV offices currently have long lines. That is from offices shuttering or offering limited services during the pandemic.

To get the ID efficiently, federal and state officials recommend visiting DMV offices soon rather than waiting until the Oct. 1 effective date.

With the threat of many residents unable to quickly get new licenses this year, the National Governors Association recommended earlier this month that given the “prolonged impact of COVID-19,” the Real ID effective date may require a second extension.

The U.S. Travel Association, an industry group, told ABC News millions of Americans are unaware of the new rules or could face delays at their state DMV offices because of the service interruptions from the pandemic.

Many Documents Required at Nevada DMV

To get a Real ID-compliant license in Nevada, you will need documents showing proof of identity, any name changes, and certain documents which list a Social Security number.

Also required are two residency documents. These may include recent utility bills or bank statements.

In California, you will need one identity document that includes your birth date and full name. For example, a valid passport or US birth certificate.

To check a current driver’s license, Real ID-compliant licenses should have a gold star in the top right-hand corner. Non-compliant licenses may say “Not For Official Federal Use.”