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Student photo IDs won't fly at airport security checkpoints

April 18, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Students younger than 18 don't have to show ID at airport security checkpoints, but they may be asked about their age.
Students younger than 18 don't have to show ID at airport security… (Natalie Behring / Getty…)

If you’re getting ready to take your kids on college visits or you're planning summer vacations with your  preteen, here’s something you need to know about airport security checkpoints: Age matters.

Children younger than 18 don't need to show ID to pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints; they just need to show a valid boarding pass. (Airlines, however, have their own set of rules about children and IDs, so check beforehand. And passports are always required on international flights.)

TSA agents may ask a child how old he or she is. Those 18 and older need a government-issued ID just like everyone else -- and a student ID with a photo won't do.

I recently was  caught off guard when I was flying with a high school senior to Northern California to check out a college that had accepted her. Daniela carried only her school-issued student ID because she didn't have a driver's license, California ID or U.S. passport.

As we started through security for our return flight, a TSA agent asked Daniela her age. She answered truthfully that she was 18 and immediately was told her student card was not an acceptable form of ID.

The TSA trusts kids to tell the truth about their age -- with a little wiggle room. "If they appear to be lying or look older than they are, there are ways to validate their age by asking them when they were born, what city they were born in," said TSA spokesman Nico Melendez.

Daniela had to submit to additional screening, and luckily we didn't miss the flight home. (For some reason, her age wasn't an issue on the outbound flight.)

The policy about 18-year-olds and IDs is stated clearly on TSA's website, but because Daniela and I had traveled together before, it never occurred to me to ask whether she had turned 18. I also thought her photo ID, though a student card, would be OK because she had used it to obtain a boarding pass.

Of course, I was wrong, which is why I'm sharing my cluelessness so no one else makes the same mistake.

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