Tampa Airport Now Lets You Clear Security When 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.

Airports in Pittsburgh & Seattle let you clear security 

In September 2017 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. Then last fall SeaTac Airport launched a similar initiative.

Now you can add another airline to the list.

Tampa Airport now lets you clear security when not flying

It’s now possible to clear security at Tampa International Airport if you’re not flying. This new program is called “TPA All Access,” and it has some restrictions associated with it:

  • This is only available every Saturday from 8AM until 8PM
  • It’s limited to 25 people per airside per day, and you’re limited to one airside per visit
  • You need to sign up at this link at least 24 hours before your anticipated visit
  • Minors are allowed, but must be accompanied by an adult
  • The day of your visit you’ll need to go to the information kiosk on level 3 in the main terminal to pick up your pass; you’ll need to show a valid photo ID

As you can see, there are some hoops to jump through and some restrictions to be aware of, and this being limited to just one day per week is quite restrictive

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 register in advance, go through security, pay for parking, etc., adds a bit of a barrier to doing so.

At most 25 additional people per Saturday (typically a slow travel day) shouldn’t materially alter security wait times.

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 do find it funny that Tampa Airport is saying that this initiative is so that passengers can enjoy the airside shops and restaurants at the airport, as if anyone is going to go just to visit a restaurant in the terminal. As much as I love Tampa Airport, that’s a bit optimistic.

Would you like to see the TSA expand airside access for non-ticketed passengers?

  1. TPA has a good TGI Fridays, but that is before security in the main central terminal. I haven’t been there though since the renovation at TPA.

  2. This is great for taking a child to watch planes for a morning/afternoon, and then getting a bite to eat in an airport restaurant. I know my airplane/anything-with-wheels loving child would love it.

    Also – I think you mean airport, not airline. (“Now you can add another airline to the list.“) 🙂

  3. No, I would not like to see it expanded – aren’t terminals, parking lots, restrooms, gates, and security lines long enough already? Saturday for restricted numbers and time is plenty.

  4. Call me a pessimist (I prefer pragmatist…) but I partially wonder if this isn’t some sort of ploy by TSA to say, “See, we tried to give you guys the ability to go airside even if you aren’t flying – you know, to meet and greet family and friends and shop and dine – but nobody took us up on the offer so we stopped the program.” The restrictions seem oddly specific for TSA to truly be trialling this as a legitimate option for non-travelers.

  5. I find this commoditization of airport interesting: on one side I understand that most (if not all) western airports (especially US ones) are under pressure to supplement diminishing local funding; on another side, this shift to mall-like experience is making the whole flying experience even worse (I don’t like shopping nor food courts) and more akin to Greyhound bus terminals (just with huge security lineups).

    Airports are positioning the airside space as an exciting retail opportunity, and are designing the space to maximize the time customers spend in store as opposed in the plane. So convoluted passageways, lack of seating at the gate, washrooms in the middle of the shopping area (not close to gates), heck, even ignoring the security line ups (so everybody budgets 3 hours in advance of flight) – all of these are anti-travel and pro-profit. The level of detail and pandering to retail outlets is astounding – even to the promise of numbers and detailed demographics on who will be hitting the stores and for how much (why do you think airports offer free wifi – so they can track customer movements through it). The days when flying was the special mode of transportation are long gone – all that is left is a nameless person = just another walking wallet to extract money from and push the advertising into.

  6. You might be surprised, at least where restaurants are concerned. I remember the radio jingle ad (“One flight up, without boarding”) for a restaurant at SDF (Standiford Field, Louisville, Ky) that was very popular. That was 25-30 years ago & I can’t remember the name of the restaurant itself. 🙂

  7. This could be useful in cases where friends or loved ones are flying through an airport near you and you want to meet up for few hours. Saves time for the person who is traveling and it would expand the amount on time spent on catching up for both parties.

  8. Using this type of option would be a lot more attractive if people entering using this program could be eligible to use Precheck.

  9. @Marija Have you been to Europe? At many airports in Europe you literally have to walk through a maze of duty free shops right after security before being able to access the main terminal area and some London airports don’t let you airside if you won’t have enough time before your flight to shop.

  10. In India, the different airports I have used, allows only ticketed passengers to even enter the terminal

  11. “As much as I love Tampa Airport, that’s a bit optimistic.” I come here for expertise and deals, but I stay for the snark. Love it.

  12. “I do find it funny that Tampa Airport is saying that this initiative is so that passengers can enjoy the airside shops and restaurants at the airport”

    I think you mean non-passengers.

  13. Laurel – nonsense,

    Duty Free shops are part of the departures area. No one is forced to shop and there are quick routes through them anyway.

    The only terminal I know that restricts entry is LHR T5 where you have to be scanned at security no later than 35 mins before your flight as part of BAs ‘conformance’ That’s not because it means you don’t have time to look at the shops but because it means you won’t have enough time to get to the gate and you’ll miss your flight!

  14. This is actually a good idea for some people. Not to go and eat but to perhaps take a nervous flyer through the airport at a more relaxed time to get them used to it.

    Let’s face it 25 people a day isn’t gong to clog up the TSA line is it? And they can soon shut the applications down in advance if they know there is going to be a particularly busy Saturday with scheduled passenger numbers.

    I’m thinking it might help an autistic child where the unfamiliar is frightening so a rehearsal before the actual flight would be comforting for them (and the parents).

    Or say a relative that may not speak English could be taken through by another relative so they have a better idea of where they need to go and what to do when they do fly alone on another day of the week.

  15. Ben, do you have to choose the specific Concourse you want to access? If flying in/out of E, I could see eating at Columbia. One last chance to get a free meal out of my mom before departing…

  16. Hi Lucky. Not add another “airline” to the list according to your article, but it should be add another “airport” to the list? Yeah? Anyway, @Lucky thanks for the update on this program.

  17. @MACH81
    This was exactly what I was thinking… They didn’t check boarding passes a month ago when I was there, so YMMV?

  18. MSP has added a great selection of local restaurants inside the terminal so I would not have an issue in taking advantage of the great food options there. Problem is that airport parking is a hassle and expensive and going through security just to eat is probably asking a bit too much.

  19. I think this is fantastic. I have a ton of memories of my mom and I meeting my father at his gate at TPA when coming home from business trips in the 90s, and have lamented the lack of that option. I hope this is the start of a return to normalcy since the security theater was ramped up following 9/11.

  20. Do I want nonticketed passengers going through security? Absolutely not. What is the point in having longer security lines and less available seating in waiting areas. People can say goodbye at the curb. Air travel is hassle enough. Lets not add to it.

  21. Here in Europe, even before 9/11 this was never permitted. Airside has always been for passengers only.

  22. @ Bill. Calm down.

    This is 25 people on one day a week (Saturday) spread across day and the whole airports so the hoards will not be descending all at once getting in your way!

  23. Hey, Lucky! SEA is not lucky.

    Seattle’s airside for non-passengers was a pilot program which was scheduled to end December 2018, which happened. They say they are considering it again but nothing yet.

    Source: Port of Seattle website. The port manages and owns the airport.

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