Once when I was traveling by air, my wallet was stolen. I was able to cancel and replace my credit cards within 24 hours, but my driver’s license was gone and I had no way to replace it until I got home. How was I going to be able to fly home? What was I going to do? In a full panic, I soon discovered that all was not lost.
If traveling without checked luggage, check in and print out your boarding pass online before heading to the airport or do it at an airport kiosk, then head to security as you normally would. At security when TSA asks for your ID, explain that your ID was lost or stolen. You will then have to provide information about yourself that will allow TSA to confirm your identity. From the TSA website, “You’ll be able to fly as long as you provide us with some information that will help us determine you are who you say you are. If you’re willing to provide some additional information, we have other means of substantiating your identity, such as using publicly available databases. If we can confirm your identity, you’ll be cleared to go through security, and you may or may not have to go through some additional screening.” In my case, it also helped that I had additional items with my name on it such as my replaced credit cards and I was not traveling alone so my traveling companions were also asked to verify my identity, but even without that, it seems like I would have been able to fly.
If you need to check luggage, it may be a bit more tricky to travel. Most airline ticket counters ask for a photo ID and your boarding pass when checking your luggage. In addition, each airline sets its own policy for dealing with ID verification. In my case, a supervisor had to be called. I explained the situation, showed the police report verifying that my ID had been stolen and provided everything I could that had my name on it. With all of that, she approved my checked luggage and I was on my way. I would suggest calling your airline and explaining the situation to see what can be done. In researching policies for this blog, it does appear that most airlines will work with you to get you on your flight.
This, of course, is all for domestic travel within the United States. If traveling internationally, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to assist in getting a replacement passport. Further information can be found at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/emergencies/lost-or-stolen-passports-abroad.html.