The days of being able to pick up and drop off traveling loved ones at their airline gate came to a screeching halt after 9/11. But over 15 years later, airports are slowly allowing this to happen again.
The Seattle-Tacoma Airport joins the Pittsburgh International Airport as the second airport in the country to allow people who aren’t traveling to meet passengers directly at their gates for both pick-up and drop-off.
However, you can’t just saunter into the airport. A TSA security check is still required, just as if you were a traveling passenger.
The Pittsburg International Airport implemented the visitors’ program in 2017. Anyone who wants to pick up or drop off a passenger at their gate is required to pick up a pass, called myPITpass, at the airport to be allowed to go through the security line without a boarding pass. The service is offered Monday–Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Similarly, all those looking to go directly to the gate at the Seattle-Tacoma airport must apply online to receive an SEA Visitor Pass. You have to request the pass the day before the flight and since only 50 visitors are allowed through the airport per day, you may or may not be approved for the pass.
If you are approved to receive the pass, you’ll be emailed the night before. From there, you’ll need to come to the airport with a photo ID to pick up the pass. Both your ID and the pass will be needed to grant you access through TSA without a boarding pass.
So far, the SEA airport is trying this out on a trial basis. The trial began on Nov. 9 and will run through Dec. 14. After gathering feedback, the airport will be able to assess whether or not this is a program they’d like to implement full-time.
The visitor program will, of course, bring more potential business to the food shops at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, but according to Lance Lyttle, the managing director at the airport, this is about nostalgia and not increased business, necessarily.
“For me it is nostalgic,” Lyttle told the Seattle Times. “As a child I used to go to the airport and watch loved ones board the plane and depart. The fact that you can say goodbye to your loved one or child or meet them at the gate and surprise them is very exciting.”
The program seems to be going well for Pittsburgh so far, so there’s the potential that even more airports will begin to try out this visiting program, too. Since the program launched in Pittsburgh, the airport has seen hundreds of non-flying people every week. Sometimes, people come just to enjoy the view.
“We see young families out there during school hours,” Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis told radio station 90.5 WESA. “These are preschool kids, and it’s clear that they are going out to look at planes.”
According to the Seattle Times, the Seattle-Tacoma experiment is going well so far, with the limit of 50 visitors already being met on the second day it was available. Only time will tell if this will become a more permanent option at airports across the country.
What do you think? Would you sign up for a visitor’s pass to greet a traveler at the gate?