Lost ID? You still can get through airport security - sometimes

Ross Constable arrived at O'Hare International Airport with just enough time to catch his Sunday night flight to LAX. Boarding pass in hand, shoes ready to slip off, master of his destiny, he reached for his wallet ... and realized it wasn't there.

"I thought I was doomed for sure," said Constable, who feared he'd miss his flight and not show up for work.

A few hours later, he was airborne, thanks to a bottle of prescription antibiotics and a dispensation from the TSA.

Since when in these days of tight security does the U.S. Transportation Security Administration offer mercy to hapless travelers who lose or forget their ID?

Actually, it's not uncommon for such emergencies to occur. and the TSA does have resources to help. Just don't expect miracles, spokesman Mark Howell said.

"It's doable. The TSA gets daily questions from people who are panicked when they lose an ID or have it stolen. If there's a way to do it, they can do it," he said.

Howell noted that screening doesn't occur just at the airport; people buying tickets are vetted initially through the federal Secure Flight program that checks names against a terrorist database to weed out flight risks.

Travelers whose ID has vamoosed should inform a TSA officer, and typically they'll undergo an extra layer of scrutiny.

"It's not a pleasant experience," Howell noted. "You're going to be there for a while because having to verify your identity takes additional time."

The process might include providing personal information like previous addresses. If your identify is confirmed, you'll undergo a pat-down and a thorough examination of carry-ons.

Absent a driver's license or passport, other identification might help. In Constable's case, a prescription bottle with his name on it was useful, although he also had to answer questions from a security official over the phone.

Asked to identify landmarks near his previous address in Oak Park, Ross, the son of Daily Herald columnist Burt Constable, invoked the name of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose architectural masterpieces dot the Western suburb.

That might have clinched the deal. Constable was allowed to go through a separate security line, have his carry-on examined, then proceed to his flight. "It was cutting it pretty close," he said.

Ironically, officers didn't find the missing wallet, which as it turns out was "hiding at the bottom of my bag with my ID," Constable explained.

Should you experience a similar crisis, you can get advice on or

One more thing

Speaking of travel, don't forget 14 months remain until the federal REAL ID law goes into effect. Without REAL ID, TSA agents won't let you use an Illinois driver's license to board domestic flights in the U.S. effective Oct. 1, 2020. REAL ID is a higher level of security instituted after 9/11. Illinoisans can update their licenses at most secretary of state facilities, but you'll need to bring in extensive documentation. For a list, go to

In the meantime, one reader was told her bank statement wasn't valid when she presented it to Illinois secretary of state employees as part of the REAL ID process - because there was no activity on the statement.

That's correct, spokesman Henry Haupt said. A "bank statement must show some recent activity, such as deposits or withdrawals. While it is not certain in all circumstances, it may be a sign of fraud if an applicant provides a bank statement with no activity on their statement," Haupt said.

Your voice

Last week's column on Pace's plans to expand bus service was informative, Terry Witt of Bartlett wrote, but "could have used a picture of a bus with bicycle in the front rack. The bike is an essential piece of every discussion. Using all of our transportation options effectively is key to getting everyone safely to and from work and school." For the record, all Pace buses offer racks for bikes at the front of each vehicle.

Gridlock alert

Plan extra time driving to O'Hare if you're taking I-190. IDOT will be resurfacing I-190 ramps connecting with Mannheim Road starting this week, which means lane closures now through September.

Popular place

Flights in and out of O'Hare International Airport took off in the first half of 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration reports. Air traffic was nearly 2% higher this year with 441,090 arrivals and departures compared to 433,192 in 2018.

One reason is "domestic operations by United and American," airport spokesman Matthew McGrath said. "American added service to 13 new domestic destinations, and United added service to nine new domestic destinations" this year.

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