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I feel like I've had to show my passport to the gate agents (along with my boarding pass) boarding international flights.

However, I haven't flown internationally in a few years, so I don't remember too well.

A friend of mine who has flown internationally recently, said that they never asked for his passport at the gate.

My reasoning is that if I turn out not to have a passport and immigration in the arriving country don't let me in, the airline will be responsible to take me back to the US.

I'm specifically wondering about travelling out of the US into Canada, but curious to know for other countries (or is it an airline policy thing?).

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    All international destinations are not created equal. – choster Jan 19 '18 at 2:53
  • @choster I would think that it is airline policy. – WELZ Jan 19 '18 at 2:54
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    Procedures differ. Procedures change. Sometimes there's no document check at the gate. Sometimes they just want to know that the person presenting the boarding pass is the person to whom it was issued. Sometimes they check immigration requirements at the gate. The best approach is to be flexible. – phoog Jan 19 '18 at 4:50
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I've flown United, Air Canada and WestJet from the US to Canada. All three required to see my passport prior to boarding, although United generally does the checks at the gate but prior to anyone boarding the aircraft.

Returning to the US from a Canadian airport, you will be required to show your passport (or a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS) at the gate as you board. (Canadian airports don't check ID at security, but instead, do so at the gate, even for domestic flights.)

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If you cannot enter the target country, the airline has to fly you back on their own nickel, and it has to pay a hefty fee. Therefore, airline always check your authorization to enter the target country.
They use a dedicated global database (TIMATIC) to know what you need for that (that DB maps every citizenship with every country, and lists requirements).

Most of the time, they are very strict, for example if you fly to Germany as a german citizen, and show them your Personalausweis, or if you fly to the US and show them your Global Entry card, they don’t accept it, even though it is legally sufficient for entering - but TIMATIC doesn’t say so.
TIMATIC does list special options for Canada - US, so you can do that without a passport, and use Nexus, etc. instead. Otherwise, you will not get a boarding pass without showing that proof.

Taking your question more literal: there is not necessarily a passport check at the gate. That happens on and off, depending seemingly on mood, airline, and time of the day. But there is always a check before you get a boarding pass.

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It has become the norm now to check and scan your passport first at security, then customs, and finally upon boarding your international flights along with your boarding pass of course. It would be wise to download the "Mobile Pass" app to streamline your re-entry into the US upon your return flight. Mobile Pass is TSA's app which eliminates the Border Card.

They also have a handy "MyTSA" app for up to date info.

Always remember, you are responsible for yourself.

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