LOVE THIS: Pittsburgh Airport Will Let You Go Through Security Without a Ticket

Passengers want to accompany friends and family to the gate. Airports want more people shopping and dining, they earn a percentage of the revenue at all the merchants at the airport. And by the way airlines usually share in this revenue, too.

The TSA wants to limit the number of people going through security. They also want to limit the bags they have to screen at the checkpoint. The TSA is the government, so until now they’ve gotten to decide.

Airlines have had some leeway, in some cases issuing passes for members of their club lounge programs to access meeting rooms even when not traveling. But even that’s been limited. I’ve certainly gone airside when not flying for airline events and even for some community meetings.

But most people have to buy a refundable ticket, go through security, and refund the ticket. That’s no longer necessary though in Pittsburgh.

Effective September 5 you won’t need to be flying same day in order to clear security at Pittsburgh International Airport between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday “with the possibility of additional hours and weekend days in coming months.”

The airport pressed the TSA “for years” to accomplish this. Here’s how it will work.

  • Check-in on the departures/ticketing level with a valid ID
  • They run you against the No Fly List
  • You get a stamped “myPITpass” instead of a boarding pass, valid to go through security same day

Copyright: boscorelli / 123RF Stock Photo

So you’re probably not going to go to the airport just for the restaurants and most people probably won’t know about this, but it will mean incremental revenue for businesses and the airport, and convenience for customers.

On the other hand it could increase crowding in the Admirals Club from people looking to leverage their membership for free rail drinks more often throughout the year.

There’s literally zero security tradeoff, the only concern is long lines from a badly managed TSA, but they’re starting off with limited hours. It will be interesting to see if other airports can push through the hurdles and accomplish something similar. It does go to show, though, if you want social change in airport security it needs to be driven by someone with an economic interest.

(HT: @bigjeffm)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I beg to differ with your read on this. Your mileage may vary, Gary, but I’m kind of surprised to see you favoring this arrangement. It could well mean longer security lines, perhaps made even slower if the folks going through aren’t themselves regular travelers and don’t know the drill. Perhaps you or I won’t be slowed down since we’re pre-check, but it could prove to be a real hassle for other folks. And let’s not even be so sure that it won’t affect privileged flyers like ourselves, since this innovation could spread to airports where there is not pre-check or where it’s only available certain times of day.

  2. Steve,
    What “non-regular” traveler will go out of their way to Pittsburgh Airport, pay for parking, walk up to a check-in desk, provide an ID and submit to a gubment check-in, ask for the little-known “myPITpass”, and then be befuddled by a TSA security line?

  3. I think the longer security line argument is flawed because there is no luggage to sort out, laptops to separate, just shoes and belt off, keys and phone in bowl. Simple and easy. The luggage screening is what takes forever

  4. Could dine with your friends and family who are flying out, even if you are not. Wait at the gate with local friends rather than alone.

  5. Hard for me to understand.
    Every ticket I buy and even non rev tickets get to pay a fee to offset the TSA cost. Is my fee also paying for some extra family cuddling time. If you really need that time, stay an extra day when visiting or don’t travel away from your family.
    I might also be missing the possibility that the airline issuing the pass is paying the TSA fee!
    I know I might sound snarky but think about adding extra load onto security lines, please.

  6. This has always been the case in Australia for domestic flights. I hope it will remain so.

  7. Jake,
    I agree the longer security line argument is flawed; in Australia we have always been able to go through airport security at domestic terminals without a ticket. Are there lines? You bet, but they are no where near the types of lines at TSA.

    And before someone tries to compare population of the US and that of Australia, let me remind them that the air corridors between MEL and SYD and between SYD and BNE are in the top ten highest volume air traffic corridors in the world. Also note these are domestic routes which means they are at the very same terminals in MEL, SYD and BNE that allow people clear security without ticket. Maybe TSA can spend some money learning how Australia does airport security? 😉

  8. I don’t like this as it will increase security time, even with no luggage. That being said, if they are going to do this, charge a minimal fee like say $2 or $5 to raise revenue to increase security staffing to reduce wait times. Also make sure there are smoking areas air side to cut down on smokers going back an forth through security for no reason.

  9. I live in Pittsburgh. There are stores in the airport that are no where else around here – Tumi, Desigual, Hugo Boss, ++. The stores and restaurants aren’t allowed to jack up their prices either.

    They tried this last Christmas for the public to shop and I guess it worked. I wonder if I’ll get to use my TSA Precheck to shop?

    In 2004, the airport was completely renovated just in time for US Airways to move their hub. The stores were a big part of that renovation. They did a decent job of keeping things afloat, but I’m sure the retailers want more business. Two years ago, we got a new airport administrator. She has added a lot of flights and is pretty innovative. She can’t seem to get the legacy carriers to add much. (The tech/robotics/Google/Uber people hound her for more non-stops to SFO.) Discount carriers – Southwest, Condor, Wow, Allegiant, etc. – keep adding flights. The retail space just got another face lift in the last year as well.

    Regarding the Admirals Club – it should be pretty quiet. We got a new Priority Pass lounge. The temporary space is open now. The permanent lounge should be open this fall.

    As for security lines, early morning is the busiest time. It isn’t so bad at noon. But the stores open at 5 AM!

  10. Works for me. Hope Denver does this. I like meeting friends at the gate and walking them through an unfamiliar airport.

  11. Checked bag fees created the slowdown that made the TSA lines. Even higher fees for carry ons (true à la cart pricing) would make them disappear.

  12. If this catches on, expect airline lounges to require a *real* boarding pass for entry (similar to what Amex currently does). Once that’s off the table, I can’t think of a USA airport that’s worth going out of your way for.

    Also, if homeless people catch wind of this, it may create issues.

  13. I think it is a nice idea but with many potential downsides. Airports and lounges are busy enough most of the time anyway. This will just add to the crowding in the airports and at the gates. I don’t agree it won’t affect security lines. If only 10% of people bring someone that is still a 10% increase for the TSA to deal with without any extra staff. They may not have luggage but the majority of non-flying people will have some sort of bag and probably won’t have thought about the liquids rules since they are not flying.

  14. Generally I think it’s a bad idea. Maybe initially people will learn about it gradually, but eventually I can see all kinds of people clogging up security lines, lounges, concourses and gate areas unnecessarily. I realize that some airports have been turning into shopping centers with a few gates attached here and there, but how is this going to impact those folks who, you know, actually have an interest in flying somewhere?

  15. No TSA Pre on this so that sucks. This mostly helps the folks that just bought a fully refundable ticket to walk in a friend and then refund once through security. Speaking of security, the sterile areas of the area aren’t really designed to keep folks in (like a casino for instance) should they choose to steal from pax. I’ve seen multiple folks robbed between the airport and next MARTA stop, if this were ATL maybe I’d be a little concerned but stil seems easier to steal from folks as MARTA as get away is easier. As far as homeless, they loiter in the sterile area of LGA no problem and they will presumably kick everyone without a BP after say 9pm. Easiest way to limit that is only give x passes per person per month/year/whatever. I don’t live in PIT or really ever travel there so I’m fine with them being the innovators on this and see how it works.

  16. The plain truth is: ticketless security access will (1) increase the time it takes to go through security, (2) pressure TSA resources and capabilities, and (3) increase crowds on concourses and at gates. All in favor of that so merchants might sell more overpriced stuff, please shoot yourselves.

    Rappers are one of OG Gary Leff’s favorite subjects, but we don’t want or need entourages.

  17. if someone in the PIT area wants to go to all that trouble just to get some drinks in the lounge, then more power to them.

  18. It’s funny to see all of the people complaining about longer security lines. Do none of you remember the days before TSA anymore? No BP was required.

    The reason lines are long is that no matter how much money we throw at TSA, they misuse it and refuse to staff appropriately. They add absurd restrictions that are haphazardly enforced.

    TSA is the reason those lines are long, and a few no-baggage people in the security line aren’t the tipping point.

  19. I can see myself going to PIT 2 or 3 times a week to get my shopping in st Spirit of the Red Horse

  20. Just scanned quickly thru the comments, but it’s not just the incremental people escorting friends and relatives to the gates, it’s also people there to pickup and meet arrivals.

  21. Think families and lots more small children – but they mostly don’t have ID’s (assuming they don’t have a passport). Then the great argument will ensue with the agent that people can’t bring their children in to see a relative leave/arrive. Like Jon, I remember the good old days. It will probably all work out, but I am sure there will be some issues along the way.

  22. That airport is dying without additional revenue. This allows passengers to bring family members with them to the gates in the hope that they will spend money at the concession stands and shops. No airlines are rushing in to add service in PIT. A Shame. Beautiful Airport. Down from over 600 flights a day to roughly 40 a day. Airport needs the business, all those shops too.

  23. SOMEHOW we all survived this no boarding pass issue before 9/11 and airports were just as crowded Geez I wonder how!.

  24. This is why liberalism is collapsing in front of our very eyes as they resort to yelling “Bigot!” once cornered and their argument has fallen to pieces. There is more to come

  25. I actually love this opportunity to see this happening again. Because it would allow the public to visit the restaurants and the retailers beyond security.

    I absolutely agree on the effort which shall be used to ensure those wanting to go to have a day pass to be let through security and yes of course it is nice that loved ones and family members wishing to see their friends and relatives on the way sounds great.

    If this trial is successful I will like it to be expanded to JFK airport and lax international airport.
    Seriously restaurants and shops will make much more money and serious plane spotters will be equally pleased

    Good luck on this effort

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