Detroit Airport Now Lets Non-Passengers Clear Security

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.

Some Airports Now Let Non-Passengers Clear Security

Over the past couple of years we’ve seen some US airports allow non-ticketed passengers go through security. There are always some restrictions associated with it, but it’s a nice concept in theory. So far we’ve seen this at three major US airports:

Now you can add another airline to the list.

Detroit Airport Now Lets You Clear Security When Not Flying

It’s now possible to clear security at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport if you’re not flying. This new program launched today and is called “DTW Destination Pass,” and it has some restrictions associated with it:

  • This is only available every Tuesday through Sunday from 8AM until 8PM
  • It’s limited to 75 people per day
  • Visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult
  • This is a pilot program that’s expected to end on January 5, 2020, though it can always be extended
  • You need to apply for a pass the day before your visit at this link
  • The day of your visit you’ll need to go to the McNamara Terminal baggage claim on the domestic arrivals level, between carousels two and three, and look for the “DTW Destination Pass” sign on the back wall
  • You’ll need to present a valid US government issued photo ID

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.

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.

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

  1. If you really need to get air side, just book a refundable ticket, clear security and cancel it. Going to be no more hassle than what DTW is offering and you may get PreCheck.

  2. Like Lucky said not many people will take advantage of this program. One of the edge cases it would be useful for is if a friend/family member is connecting thru an airport you live near. Living near another mainline hub I have had to buy a refundable ticket, clear security and cancel it once before to spend an hour with a friend I have not seen in a while.

  3. I rather continue to restrict airside to ticketed passengers. At peak travel times, security lines are long enough already – just imagine how much longer it will take to clear security if non-ticketed passengers were permitted. And airport terminals, especially hubs, are crowded enough already – imagine how much more difficult it will be to navigate through bigger crowds.

  4. Seems ideal for business meetings if someone you know is passing through your town, or if say someone has a choice to connect between Detroit or MSP/ORD etc they might pick detroit to see someone for business or if they have a family member near by they havent seen. Probably not going to be used much but i can see this providing tremendous value to a few people on occasion. I would love if i can do this at DFW with the amount of friends, family and business connections that pass through my airport, would be nice to spend 1-2 hours with them and it makes their layover more enjoyable.

  5. Recently a passenger was arrested in Changi Airport for the same reason.
    “People who buy a boarding pass simply to access these areas with no intention of flying can be prosecuted under the Infrastructure Protection Act.”
    “The offender may be prosecuted in Court and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both,”

  6. I’ve done this for a few years when I stay at the Westin and have a late departure. The front desk will arrange it for you with TSA. Ask for it when you check in, sometimes it takes an hour or two for TSA to get back to them.

    There’s a Plum market with a Zingerman’s just past the Westin security. Absolutely worth it.

  7. Some people(Me) are AVGeeks and enjoy seeing planes close up. Especially at airports without any decent spotting locations. For those of us who long to travel more than we are able to, it can be fun.

  8. I echo what Tom says. When at the Westin it can be useful. As well there is a sufficient Japanese restaurant after security that is better than the awful Westin fare.

  9. 75 people a day and available for 12 hours. What else do the people do, when not issuing six passes per hour? And why do they close on Monday? Especially during the holiday season, that’s not necessarily going to be the busiest day of the week.

    If the airlines can add $5.60 to my ticket just for passing through an airport, even if I don’t go anywhere near security, then why is this a freebie? Sell a $10 ticket and use the proceeds to pay bonuses to TSA staff who keep the lines moving.

    The market isn’t just family and friends accompanying departures. They will hand out even more passes to people who want to greet arrivals at the gate. More traffic jams, 10 yards from the jetway.

  10. There’s too many people airside now and those are ticketed passengers and restaurants will be even more crowded, etc. No thanks, at least DFW would never even consider this.

  11. To all those saying it will crowd the airport too much: It’s limited to 75 people a day. That’s one regional jet worth of people a day at one of the country’s largest airports.

    It’s clearly going to mostly be used by a few loved ones of actual passengers.

  12. A person I knew used the TPA access pass to surprise his girlfriend in the terminal. He was so happy and bought her flowers and a box of chocolates and hid behind a crowd and watched her flight deplane. Unfortunately, she didn’t notice him as she was too busy getting all up with her seatmate…

    This pass is a gift and a curse, use it wisely.

  13. Why, though? Unless we’re talking about a passenger with clear needs (like disabled or underage traveling alone), access should be restricted to those traveling only. And that’s for a few simple reasons:
    – Security lines are already long enough as they are.
    – Airport lounges are already crowded enough, it’s at many airports hard enough to find a seat near a gate.
    – Every person passing through security is still a risk. Screening remains manual labor and humans make mistakes. Who give access to people who have no business there?
    – There are already alternatives: instead of meeting airside, the ‘loved one’ can meet landside and go through security again with a valid boarding pass, if the need to meet is so high.

  14. 75 people a day is an infinitesimal number compared to the number of passengers going through each day and it is very unlikely they would all turn up at once.

    PLUS – and I bet none of you complaining clicked through to the link – the webste clearly states this

    “During peak departure times, priority in the checkpoint line will be given to ticketed passengers catching flights. Issuance of passes may be suspended during these times”

    And also that people using this service can’t use clear or pre check lines.

  15. There were so many times I wanted to escort family to the gate just as we did before 9/11. Helping my sister with her newborn or pushing moms wheelchair myself to the gate would be incredibly helpful. To those concerned about longer lines, during peak times, priority will be given to ticketed pax. All of of this is moot as the program will end Jan2020 unless renewed.

    On a side note, the old L.C. Smith terminal is finally coming down…so many memories

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