Call me old-fashioned, or just call me old. But, I can recall a time when it was permissible for someone to clear airport security even if they weren’t flying that day. Before 9/11, I can remember accompanying friends and family members to their boarding gate for various reasons. It’s been a long time since it was that easy.
Frequent travelers have a couple of tools they can use to get through security today if they’re not flying, though even some of those are getting more difficult to utilize. It used to be pretty easy to get a “boarding pass” for a fictitious flight if you were a club lounge member for the various airlines. In the example of American Airlines, you would present yourself to a ticket agent and they would generate a boarding pass. These weren’t “real” boarding passes, the destination was listed as something like “Sabre Field Headquarters”. Anyway, these are harder to get nowadays as well.
An announcement yesterday seems to indicate the possibility of a return to the days where you could easily clear security when you weren’t flying. Pittsburgh Airport and the TSA are rolling out a program where non-passengers can clear security. It’s only Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm so far. As Gary notes in his post, this is ostensibly a way to help earn more money for airport vendors.
If you haven’t been to Pittsburgh Airport recently, it’s a shell of its former self. There’s been a huge reduction in flights there over the years. I would imagine this equates to a big drop in business for airport shops and restaurants. To be clear, I don’t think this is going to bring a huge influx of business to the airport.
The Final Two Pennies
From a customer perspective, I really like this change. There’s no bona fide reason all non-travelers should be banned from accompanying someone to their gate. If thousands of people started doing it, this would surely weigh on security wait times. It’s not like TSA is nailing it now with current wait times at certain airports. These really should be edge cases. A nervous, infrequent flier may feel much better if a loved one can stay with them until they board their flight.
I can recall an instance a number of years ago where my best friend and I were picking up his sister at the airport. We had just learned that their father had passed away suddenly. She was very distraught. On that occasion, we weren’t able to get through security. I’m sure she would have preferred a friendly face when she walked off the plane as opposed to trying to navigate the airport on her own.
I’ll cross my fingers (but not hold my breath) that we’ll see more of this test program at other airports in the future.
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