After 9/11 a lot of changes were made to airport security. One of those changes was that only ticketed passengers could clear security in the US, meaning that it’s generally no longer possible to clear security if you don’t have an outbound boarding pass.
Some airlines will issue you a gate pass if you’re seeing off a family member, are a lounge member and want to meet someone there, etc., but as a general rule you can’t clear security if you’re not flying.
This is in stark contrast to other parts of the world — for example, in Australia there’s no boarding pass required to go through security at domestic terminals.
Last September a TSA pilot program was announced at Pittsburgh Airport, allowing non-ticketed passengers to go through security. There were some restrictions associated with it, but this was the first major US airport to offer something like this in over a decade.
Well, this concept has now been extended to a second airport. It’s now possible to clear security at Seattle Tacoma Airport if you’re not flying. This new “Visitor Pass Program” (as it’s called) starts today, and there are some restrictions associated with it:
- As of now this is a trial that ends on December 14, 2018
- This is only available Tuesday through Saturday between 8AM and 10PM
- Only 50 people per day will be eligible
- You need to register online before 1:30PM on the day prior in order to be eligible
- You’ll need photo identification
So as you can see, there are some hoops to jump through and some restrictions to be aware of, but all things considered I’d say this is a positive development.
I can’t imagine that many people will take advantage of this opportunity. While seeing off a loved one sounds nice in theory, having to go through security, pay for parking, etc., adds a bit of a barrier to doing so.
At most 50 additional people per day shouldn’t materially alter security wait times. However, if we did get to the point where we started letting everyone through security again, I could see that leading to longer lines, which wouldn’t be good.
Still, I think overall this is a great initiative. People will generally only want to go airside if they really want to spend some extra time with their friends or family, whether it’s because there’s an unaccompanied minor, a senior, they haven’t seen a loved one for a very long time and want to surprise them, or what not. I would be surprised if they even reached the 50 person limit most days.
So I applaud this effort and hope it expands, though if it does, it would have some minor downsides.
Would you like to see the TSA expand airside access for non-ticketed passengers?
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)