New: Clear Security At SeaTac Even When You’re Not Flying

Filed Under: Security/TSA

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)

  1. Would I want to see TSA expand airside access for non-ticketed passengers? Absolutely not! Security lines are long enough as it is. Plus gate hold areas can barely accommodate passengers, let alone friends and family. The current gate access procedure issued by the airlines should suffice.

  2. It’s not a good idea. Only passengers should be permitted airside. At Heathrow and many others you have to scan your boarding pass it’s linked to the airline systems so if you are late you can’t get through. At some terminals such as Tom Bradley at LAX it would be impossible since it’s a one way flow and inbound have to pass through immigration and customs
    European airports are very security conscious and staff need airside passes and not all airport staff have these

  3. It’s a good thing – people need access to view aircraft. I remember growing up and into adulthood in Australia – going to the airport was an outing! Even if I wasn’t seeing someone off, I’d sometimes go there just to watch aircraft. And at the International Terminal (in PER), they have an observation deck land-side so you don’t have to get involved in customs and immigration. Nothing sinister involved and if someone really wanted to do something, they can always do so outside. It’s great for kids and it certainly inspired me in my young Av-Geek days!

  4. What is the rationale behind the requirement to be in posession of a boarding pass to go through security? Is it so your name could be checked against a database of potential threats?

    As everyone is screened in the same say, in theory there should be no limitation as to whom is allowed through the checkpoint, or I am missing something?

  5. Back in 2011 my elderly parents (80’s) flew to Seattle for my son’s high school graduation. Back then Alaska had a policy that you could use their lounge without flying. Just show your lounge card to go through security (premium line even.) It allowed me to meet them at the gate (in their wheel chairs.) There are valid reasons to go to the gate without flying.

  6. Very opposed to this. There are already means for those needing to escort to get passes. Other than that the lines are too long as it is (and gate areas crowded enough). There is no need for anyone besides parents of minors or guardians to enter. This is a technique of Clear to get more memberships and ultimately clog the Pre line and gates even more.

  7. In Australia anyone can go through domestic security, no ID or boarding card required. I’ve done it a couple of times to take people into the qantas business lounge to see them off, but then security lines are never that bad.

    All the liquids you want as well.

  8. Gotta love those who think 50 people is somehow going to have an impact on the security lines at an airport where than 100,000 people fly out of daily.

  9. I can see this to help someone needing assistance or support to get to and from the gate – elderly, very young, otherly-abled, afraid of flying, whatever. Just doing this out of curiosity, however much you love planes and airports, seems like a security risk and could further overload an already overloaded TSA system. But 50 a day, for good reason? More power to them.

  10. Pre 2001, this was fine, and it’s fine now – especially limited to 50/day.

    Unfortunately, the FAQ’s say that even if you have PreCheck or Clear, you can’t use it with the visitor pass program. I suppose if you had an airline elite card, you could – at least it doesn’t say you can’t.

  11. Don’t like it. As of now it’s a small number but we pay security fees in our tickets; why should we subsidize non flyers?

  12. Ps.. I believe the folks talking about lines are more concerned the policy will be relaxed to a larger number of visitors.

  13. Don’t like it, even if it’s a small number today, these things can continue to grow and grow and grow. Aren’t security lines long enough? Do we need longer waits in restrooms? More crowding in terminals?

  14. I am against this. Its bad enough the way its. Lets not add more to the problem even it’s “only” 50 people.

  15. I like the idea of being able to enjoy the restaurants and shops at the airport. It would be great if this expanded to airports like Incheon in Seoul. The airport is basically a shopping mall and even includes a cultural center.

  16. Can you imagine the mess at already over-crowded airports if this was incorporated without any limits?

    I prefer the model in airports in India – only passengers flying within 24 hours allowed inside the terminal building. One can enter the terminal to see off family and friends up to the security, but they have to pay for a pass and go through security before being allowed entrance.

    I like the concept of allowing visitors to view the wonder of aviation, but there are aircraft viewing areas at designated locations. Frankly, nothing more amazing than watching these beauties land and/or take-off.

  17. The 50 people a day is a trial. If they implement this it will “clearly” be open to all members and that is my issue. No way they are doing this to leave it at a 50 per day limit lol.

  18. it should be like australia.i loved as a kid seeing planes and doing aircraft spotting when i have afternoons off work i do that nowadays as an adult.adelaide did not have an observation deck as such but most other australian airports did.

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