Seattle Airport Now Lets Visitors Go Through Security Without Same Day Travel, Joining Growing Trend

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.

Airlines have had some leeway in who gets through. In some cases they’ve issued passes for members of their club lounge programs to access meeting rooms even when not traveling although gate passes have become far more rare. I’ve gone airside when not flying for airline events and even for some community meetings.

Most people have had to buy a refundable ticket, go through security, and refund the ticket if they wanted to be inside the airport without traveling that day — and doing so isn’t kosher.

Two and a half years ago Pittsburgh airport opened itself up to non-travelers during the business day (largely less peak travel times). This required checking in at the departures level, being run against the no fly list, and getting a stamped pass. Here are details on the program.

Copyright: boscorelli / 123RF Stock Photo

Since then other airlines have gotten in on the action. A year ago Seattle Airport test their own program during the 2018 holidays. In six weeks 1165 people used the program. Now that program is returning permanently. You can sign up here.

Visitors are able to apply for a pass online by 1:30 p.m. the day prior to using it. Applicants were then subject to approval by the TSA, and receive a notification on their status by midnight of the same day.

Passengers will be allowed to enter through the airport’s secure area at Checkpoint 3. Up to a 100 visitors will be allowed per day, between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days a week.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Tampa and New Orleans offer similar programs, too. Ultimately very few people go to the airport just for the restaurants — except maybe Tortas Frontera sandwiches at O’Hare — and most people probably won’t know about this sort of option. It does mean incremental revenue for businesses and the airport, and convenience for customers.

With major US airlines and American Express lounges moving to require a same day departing boarding pass for admittance it’s unlikely to lead to greater crowding of lounges or greater costs for rail drinks.

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. The only thing I’d really like is a “See your family off to the gate pass”

    If my Grandparents were flying to visit a cousin, it would be great to help them through checkin/security and help them find their gate, I know the wheelchair dudes exist but they would prefer that.

    Likewise it would be nice if my cousin could clear security on the other end and meet them @gate and then help with whatever luggage there is.

    Shouldn’t be too hard, just make a record and call it “Non-flying companions” so we can both get gate passes.

    Maybe require everyone to have the airline in question’s ff# so they can link it up.

  2. I could see myself more likely to use this type of thing if one could use Precheck for this. I find it disappointing that there is no Precheck option for using this type of program.

  3. If TSA could figure out how to separate passengers with 4 gate checked luggage from passengers with one carry on, wouldn’t the line speed up? Very few non travellers want to wait 30 minutes behind 200 people with 300 pieces of luggage to eat airport food.

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