In the 18 years that have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks, air travel has radically changed. Gone are the days of bringing knitting needles into the main cabin, in case you felt like stitching a few rows while rocketing through the air; of going to watch the airplanes take off and land simply as a chance to meditate on the human condition; and of walking a loved one to the gate to see them off. No longer can we relate, culturally, to the romantic climax of early 90s movies where the hero chases after their love before they leave on a jetplane forever.
But that may be changing back. In early May, Tampa International Airport became the latest U.S. airport to allow non-ticketed individuals go through security, raising the question: will non-ticketed visitors become commonplace in U.S. airports once again?
We break it down.
Who can go through security without a ticket right now?
As of now, there are several ways to get through airport security without a boarding pass.
First: non-ticketed guest passes, such as Tampa’s recent program. Non-ticketed parties can apply for a TPA All Access Pass at least 24 hours before their visit, and with a pass they can go through security sans boarding pass in order to eat, drink, shop, and wait for arriving flights. There are some caveats, however: passes are only good from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and the airport is limiting passes to 25 per airside (the secured part of the airport).
Pittsburgh International Airport has a similar program, myPITpass, launched in 2017 — which made them the first airport post-9/11 that allowed public access airside, according to Afar. So far, the program is only available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Similarly, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport ran a visitor pass pilot program which ended in December 2018, during which time 1,165 visitors enrolled. They’re going to make a decision sometime this year about whether or not to continue the program.
And for all commercial airlines, there are escort passes. You can apply for an escort pass in order to accompany a minor or a disabled friend or family member to the gate or pick them up when they land (save for customs and immigration, which are still off-limits to those with escort passes).