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.
You asked and we delivered! Our airsides are now open to the public! Every Saturday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. we’re inviting the public to enjoy our post-security shops and restaurants. Choose an airside, book for free online and you’re all set! #TPAallaccess
— Tampa International Airport ✈️ (@FlyTPA) April 30, 2019
Would you like to see the TSA expand airside access for non-ticketed passengers?