More Airports Are Allowing Non-passengers to Go Through Security

The good old days of meeting your family at the gate could be making a comeback.

Mom and daughter hugging in airport terminal
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Air travel in the 20th century was more romantic — if only for the fact that you could stay with loved ones all the way up until they boarded their plane. But that forgotten, much-loved aspect of travel could be making a comeback.

This week, the Tampa International Airport announced that it will allow visitors to pass through airport security, even if they have no plans to travel that day. It is the third major airport in the country to reimplement this feature — with some restrictions, of course — post-9/11.

However, airports' primary motivation may have little to do with sending off your loved ones, and instead be more focused on offering access to shops and restaurants.

Here's what to know about U.S. airports where you can more easily access the terminals without a ticket to fly.

Tampa International Airport

Tampa International Airport announced this week that every Saturday it will open up for 100 people to visit the airport beyond the security checkpoint, The Points Guy reported.

“Now families, foodies or even couples looking for a unique date experience can come try our chargrilled oysters at Ulele, sample locally brewed beer at Cigar City and shop for unique gifts and items at our duty-free and fine retail stores without having to buy a ticket,” the airport’s CEO, Joe Lopano, said in a statement.

In order to gain access to the terminal, visitors must register online at least 24 hours before they intend to visit. If approved, they are able to visit any time from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on their requested day, after passing through security with a valid photo ID. They are able to take full advantage of all airport amenities, besides purchasing alcohol or tobacco at a duty-free shop.

Pittsburgh International Airport

Pittsburgh International Airport
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In 2017, Pittsburgh became the first airport in the country to allow non-ticketed people to pass through airport security. The pass system brings hundreds of additional people to the airport every week, according to a local news article written nine months after the program launched.

In order to pass through airport security, visitors must register at a special booth in the corner of the airport and pass through normal TSA security. Visitors are only allowed in the airport from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Seattle Tacoma Airport

In November 2018, Seattle Tacoma airport launched a one-month test allowing non-ticketed visitors to pass through security after applying online. During that time, 1,165 people took advantage of the program.

The airport does not have any immediate plans to relaunch the program but is considering bringing it back on a more permanent basis in the future. “Users were very enthusiastic and we are exploring re-starting the program later this year,” airport spokesperson Perry Cooper told The Points Guy.

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