I know that in the US and in India people flying on domestic routes are required by the government to carry photo ID. I could understand why the airline might want to check IDs - it's helping them avoid scalpers and ticket resellers. But what's the point of that requirement from the government's point of view?

In theory, everyone who gets through security are supposed to be checked throughly, so it should be completely irrelevant who's actually flying the route. Likewise immigration is not a concern on domestic flights so again the identity of the traveler should not be of concern.

  • Enforcing no-fly lists? No matter the merits of a no-fly list in the first place, you need to make sure the person getting on the plane is the person whose name you matched against the relevant databases for the list to have any teeth. The US no-fly list definitely includes US persons who cannot ne banned from entering the country.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 3 '17 at 8:56
  • @Relaxed didn't the requirement exist before 9/11?
    – JonathanReez
    Jun 3 '17 at 8:59
  • @JonathanReez yes, long before, as far back as the 60's (okay, I was a child). Perhaps it had (and still has) to do with the airlines and their manifests, checking to verify that the person is who the ticket/boarding pass says they are.
    – Giorgio
    Jun 3 '17 at 12:23
  • @Dorothy airline checking IDs is understandable. Government officials - not so much
    – JonathanReez
    Jun 3 '17 at 12:29
  • @Dorothy but federal government officials doing that in the US does date from after 9/11. Before that, airport security was enforced by airports, usually by hiring private security firms.
    – phoog
    Jun 3 '17 at 14:48

The reason ID is checked in the United States is be satisfy the current rule that only ticketed passengers can enter the departure area. Matching ID to Boarding Pass is just the easiest way to do this.

As there are no departure controls leaving the United States, there is no Domestic vs International aspect.

Prior, neither Boarding Passes or ID were checked at the terminal entrance.

Due to APIS, Big Brother already knows you're flying so it's not really a 'Papers Please' situation.

  • "prior, neither boarding passes or id were checked at the terminal entrance": prior to 9/11? That's incorrect. The practice may not have been universal, but I was definitely forbidden from accompanying someone to the boarding gate at a US airport in the mid 1990s.
    – phoog
    Jun 3 '17 at 17:39
  • @phoog The statement is correct. The policy had changed several times before 2001-09-11, but as you even noted, up to sometime in the mid-'90s, neither a boarding pass or ID was required.
    – Johns-305
    Jun 3 '17 at 19:16

That is actually not correct; in the USA, you can fly domestically without an ID.

Here is a link to TSA's website that explains it: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification (scroll down!)

If you read up on TSA regulations (and read other questions/answers regarding this topic), you will find that it is allowed - although they certainly don't make it easy.
You will need to answer a lot of questions and might need some extra time, and depending on the TSA agent, he might simply send you away (incorrectly). Certainly not a recommendable experience, but legal.

The ID checks at security are to verify that only people actually flying are allowed into the secured zone; simply to reduce the total number of people that need to be scanned and processed - in the old times, often half the family and some friends would see people to the gate.

  • "You will need to answer a lot of questions" -> why? " to verify that only people actually flying are allowed into the secured zone" -> in Schengen and UK airports that's solved by scanning the barcode of your ticket. Once you went through, no other person can use the ticket to enter the secure area.
    – JonathanReez
    Jun 3 '17 at 12:42
  • That's not correct, @JonathanReez . I had several occasions in Europe where I walked back out of the security area, and entered again - which would not have worked if you were right. In the USA, they scan the bar code too, of course, but only verify its data against your name and flight date. In addition, every Joe can make a barcode at home with his name and some flight data on it; there is no encryption.
    – Aganju
    Jun 3 '17 at 12:54
  • And what is the purpose of those "lot of questions" you need to answer? So that they can verify your identity. So whilst it may be possible to get airside without "physical" ID, it's not possible to pass airside without being identified.
    – Doc
    Jun 3 '17 at 12:57
  • Correct, @Doc . So the whole point is to not let non-flyers in the secure area. As I wrote above.
    – Aganju
    Jun 3 '17 at 13:00
  • 1
    @Aganju You haven't really explained anything and Doc's observation does not support your answer. If it was about managing passenger flows and saving effort as you suggest in the last paragraph, a simple question or simply checking boarding passes would be enough and waving the requirement to have physical ID without extensive questioning in a limited number of cases would not be a concern. So why is it important to find out the ID of the people flying (whether that means through questioning or otherwise isn't that important)?
    – Relaxed
    Jun 4 '17 at 6:52

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