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Airports Begin Loosening Restrictions on Non-Passengers

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MAY 3, 2019

Pittsburgh, airport, terminal

The attacks of September 11, 2001 changed everything we knew about flying, including security. No longer could passengers without a ticket go to the gate.

No more escorting friends or family to the gate unless it was a special circumstance, no more grabbing a bite to eat at a restaurant on the other side of security checkpoints, no more taking the kids to a great vantage point to watch takeoffs and landings.

It’s been the norm for almost 18 years now.

But the new normal is starting to change a bit.

More U.S. airports are starting to relax their rules on non-passengers, but not necessarily back to an open forum such as non-ticketed passengers only needing to go through security to roam the airport. There are restrictions, of course, but the decision made by Tampa International Airport, Pittsburgh International and Seattle-Tacoma to loosen the rules is apparently setting a new standard.

However, much of this is still in beta testing. Tampa, for instance, announced its plans last week, but the airport will only be open to non-ticketed guests once a week on Saturdays, and only to 100 people.

And those people must first apply online.

The method behind the madness is revenue. The chance to eat and shop at the myriad restaurants and high-end stores on the airside of security is likely to attract more visitors if they know they can access that part of the airport.

“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,” Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement.

In a more expanded interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Lopano said the sense of frustration held people back.

“The problem was, the people who were really excited about it said, ‘Hey, wait a minute: I can’t go out the airside to try out that restaurant. What’s up with that?’ ” he said. “To those feeling left out… we heard you.”

Pittsburgh ran a pilot program in 2017 and was successful enough to consider re-starting the program later this year.

Sea-Tac did its program in 2015 and is also considering bringing it back.


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