TSA Pilot Program Allows Non-Passengers To Clear Security

Filed Under: Security/TSA

9/11 prompted a lot of changes to the airport experience. 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 places in the world — for example, in Australia there’s no boarding pass required to go through security at domestic terminals.

WPXI is reporting that as of September 5, 2017, Pittsburgh International Airport will allow non-ticketed passengers to go through security. This is the first airport in the US to offer something like this since rules changed after 9/11. This is a pilot program being run by the TSA, and as of now will just be available from 9AM until 5PM Monday through Friday, with the possibility of hours being expanded at a later point.

This initiative is being called the “myPITpass program,” and the procedure will be as follows:

  • Check in on 3rd floor ticketing level (across from Allegiant)
  • Show a valid photo ID (driver’s license or passport)
  • Have name vetted against No Fly list and obtain stamped myPITpass
  • Go through security checkpoint observing the same rules as passengers boarding flights

The passes will only be valid on the day they’re issued, and according to the story, ticketed passengers will receive priority at security, though I’m not sure how that would work in practice. The airport is excited about this, so that you’ll be able to “make an outing” to see “wonderful Pittsburg Airport.”

Personally I’m generally a fan of this concept, though I think there are two sides to this. First of all, 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.

If many people did take advantage of this, it could increase crowding and make wait times at security checkpoints longer, as presumably the TSA won’t increase staffing. Second of all, ticketed passengers are subsidizing non-ticketed passengers here. There’s a $5.60 security fee on every ticket, and those using a “myPITpass” won’t have to pay.

While I think the above is true, I also think that 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 passenger, they haven’t seen them for a very long time and want to surprise them, or what not. I would be shocked if more than a few dozen passengers a day take advantage of this.

So I applaud this effort and hope it expands, though it doesn’t come without 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. Sunday morning airside with some coffee and pastries plane spotting at SMF/SFO… count me in. (When/If it expands there)

  2. We do not have this privilege in Asian country where only passengers with boarding pass can get access to airside even in domestic terminal. Passengers have to got o passport control for inter terminal, so who do not have passport and boarding pass can’t got to airside.

  3. Will be interesting if the airlines respond or change boarding procedures. My understanding is they have always been happy with only pax getting through from a revenue management standpoint as it meant you could not play games with inventory. Now in theory you could check in online and give someone else your ticket and they could board the flight as you if you get a airside pass.

  4. I used to intern while in college for a student exchange program dealing with US and foreign born students departing/arriving in the US. I did this after 9/11. It was always a crapshoot having to beg airline employees for a gate pass. I welcome this very much so. A formalized process at airports would have made this so much easier.

  5. This isn’t as novel as it’s made out to be. Both DTW and DFW already have similar programs that are limited to guests staying in their onsite hotels. PIT isn’t really breaking new ground here.

  6. Airports should have movie theatres, night clubs and brothels.

    A whole new meaning for the term layover. “Honey, I don’t take non stop because this 2 hour layover flight is cheaper and I am suddenly all about saving money for my company”

  7. It might weaken security
    But it will make terminals more crowded and create longer waits at restaurants
    and be a negative with more couples singles families fake service animals all milling around already crowded gates and limited toilet facilities that aren’t clean to begin with
    I vote no!

  8. Love the concept! This will save me a lot of hassle from buying refundable tickets 😉
    There’s nothing like the confused look of an arriving friend/family member when you meet them at the gate 😀

    Why are the pics of LAX though?

  9. Would passengers with Known Traveler Numbers be able to use the PreCheck line? I’d love to be able to take my toddler to the airport on a Sunday to watch the planes, but I sure don’t want to have to worry about shoes.

  10. Living in Pittsburgh, the main reason for this is to shop at the air-side “mall”.

    The stores (or airport itself) may be subsidizing the $5.60 TSA fee to boost shopping.

    The Priority Pass lounge in PIT requires that you show a boarding pass every time I go there.

    The airport has in the past had “shopping days” with designated days around the holidays where anyone can go thru security to shop.

  11. Aren’t there enough people in the security lines and airside already? TSA cannot handle the masses now, much less with non-passengers who aren’t paying any fees to increase manpower. And as for ticketed passengers getting priority, how is that workable? And the hours are just crazy – 9-5, M-F when most people are taxing an already overburdened system. It increases risk, it increases cost, and increases crowding. There is no upside to ticketed passengers.
    I vote no as well.

  12. Given some of those stories about wrong destinations for unaccompanied minors, this is great news for parents of unaccompanied minors.

  13. All we need is more crowd on airports shopping at overpriced stores and eating at overpriced restaurants. Bottle of water for $4.50 anyone??? BTW, don’t think this will affect lounges since they all ask for boarding pass when you check in.

  14. What a horrible idea, as though going through the TSA is not bad enough. You do realize that some cultures have one person traveling and ten others seeing them off. Can’t wait to stand on that line behind them. Then the airside vendors and waiting areas will be over-crowded if not inundated meaning longer waits for a coffee and donut or a meal before boarding. What are we supposed to do build in two extra hours for this ??? Please, please don’t let this set a precedent.

  15. @Danny,
    ??……unaccompanied minors are already (mandatorily) escorted to flights by parent or guardian. To add more friends and relatives to the mix is ridiculous. What TSA lines do you know of that are not long and annoying enough without extra people piling on. Good grief, think about it.

  16. “So I applaud this effort and hope it expands, though it doesn’t come without some (minor) downsides.”…….minor downsides ?…..(writer, Mr. Schlappig).

    Says the writer who flies over 400,000 miles a year which means he goes through Priority and Pre-Check Lanes, First Class Lanes and secret passageways from Club rooms. These folks do not even bring their spouses to see them off let alone an entourage of family members and friends. Don’t make it sound like a walk in the park when it will just add to the angst and bedlam at checkpoints. Ridiculous.

  17. I hate it. It will only make everything more crowded and less safe (pick pockets, drunks…). Airside is for passengers, I don’t want random people there.

  18. I think they should charge a security fee. I mean these people are using the same facilities/resources as fliers (TSA, etc), why shouldn’t they pay for it.

  19. Pittsburgh has an ‘h’ at the end.
    Also on the surface it seems silly to drive to the airport to hang out but you don’t know Pittsburgh. There are shops at the airport that aren’t accessible elsewhere. So it could be worth the drive to check out some stuff since parking for an hour is just $1. This could really help the area out. When PIT was opened USAirways was a huge factor, it was their hub and they demanded tons of space. As it is now about 40-50% of the airport is unused. The security is in one area, then you take a transit to the gates (eg where all the shops are). They have been considering moving security to the rest of the airport and demolishing the security building, that’s how few passengers go through there. It isn’t a hub, few flights go to key places directly. So to get locals to come early to meet friends and family at the gate (and spend money) or to have lunch with someone that is connecting (and spend money) or to shop for things they have to normally order online (spending money) is an interesting away to approach the problem before demolishing buildings.

    And note before 9/11 you could go past security without a ticket so this is not ‘new’ so much as reverting to the original policies.

  20. Unless they dramatically expand TSA screening, this is a terrible idea. It takes long enough to get through security as it is.

  21. I am beyond excited about this!! Long time coming!!! Already planning my Airport landslide Terminal days!!!

  22. If we remember the original reason to close air-side to non passengers was for “security”. However, I also seem to remember that every 9-11 Hijacker were “ticketed” passengers. Australia has it down pat.

    Just let everyone through security and let the merchants make money and family greet their loved ones at the gate just like the old days in America. FREEDOM!

    That said, I would recommend US TSA greatly expand the number of lanes to process all the extra people.

  23. Great news. Any of you here commenting, if you aren’t fans of flying and traveling, and don’t like airplane spotting, look elsewhere. For the rest of us, this is wonderful and can hopefully be restored to other airports as well…. Don’t be a grumpy “I just want to get from point A to point B in a Greyhound station manner”, but think about that getting there is half the fun, including the airport. If you hate airports and flying so much, then just fly away permanently and then hate in hell as you slowly succumb to your self-induced eternal flames.

  24. The access to domestic gates beyond security is an ‘Australian’ right but I suspect that even though we are inveterate travellers, our relatively small population allows this policy to continue. I do note though, Lounge access is only granted to those holding an appropriate boarding pass or attending a pre-arranged meeting.

  25. As an Admirals Club member, I have never been asked for a boarding pass, when accessing one of their lounges.

  26. This reminds me when I was in Prague probably around the year 2002 and there was only security for the gate to the UK and USA, but all other European destinations had no security. Passengers just had to show their ID before boarding.

  27. In the test market there is rarely a long line for security. As staff they can handle ‘all the extra people’. The ONLY time lines are bad are the night and morning after home Steeler games. Otherwise it’s maybe 5-10 minutes without pre-check, less with it. It’s a good market to start with as a test. So everyone can relax, let them run the experiment and see how it works out. Get off the ledges.

  28. Tried this out last week. I was flying out of PIT and had my parents who were not flying test the process. First they had to stand in a line short in people but long in time, in order to show their ID and get a piece of printer paper the TSA agent embosses. My parents have known traveler numbers, however this does not factor into the new program. They were required to go through the regular TSA line while I went through pre-check. Pittsburgh has two security areas, one that is kind of hidden, which is the one they requested my parents go through, as I assume this causes the least disturbance to travelers, because most of them go to the main security line out of lack of knowledge. It took them about 15 minutes to get through security. I’m not sure why someone would go through this just to eat or shop, however it was nice to have company at the gate until I boarded.

  29. I reccommend all airports nationwide to go with this idea I loved to watchplanes and wait for my loved oned or seeing them off at the gate i wold vote Yes for this 😀

  30. And Bring back those good memories can;t wait to see it at DFW For example and be able to access all the shops and resterunts

  31. Yes!!!! TSA!!! expand airside access for non-ticketed passengers!
    Just today I went to the Frontier ticket counter to obtain a gate pass so that I could help my daughter and her 2 babies -2 years and 6 weeks old get to her gate. They said for $110 I could walk her to her gate. Seriously, Frontier is the worst!! but the SLC TSA agents are the best! first 2 nice ladies accepting baggage for screening were so kind when I asked them how I could get wheelchair assistance and tried to help me figure something out. Then at the security gate, the agent asked his superior if they could call for wheelchair help and she asked what was going on and when I told her they would not give me a gate pass and I was in tears, she said I will help her and she DID!!! amazing lady!! then the two who tried to help me first saw me and asked if it worked out and i was in tears again and the one said, let me give you a hug! Amazing ladies! Way to go Salt Lake City TSA!!

  32. I wan to see at every major airport, where anyone can go airside, and non-ticketed passengers can show ID and get a pass.

    I think it be nice to bring back the good old days where friends and family can meet their arriving/departing party at the gate, as well as shop airside and see planes. I especially want this program at Boston Logan International Airport where I live.

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