If you’re Gen-X or a baby boomer, you might remember the days you didn’t need a boarding pass to go past TSA airport security. In fact, I wrote about the retro things involving flying before 9/11. Well, it turns out you can still go past airport security without a boarding pass — but under special considerations.
First, there’s something called an Airport Escort Pass, and it only works if you’re accompanying a minor or a person with a disability who needs special assistance to the boarding gate. Basically, it’s for anyone who wants to see their young kid, grandchildren, or relative or friend with a mobility issue or a disability make it safely to the departure gate.
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Now, back to Airport Escort Pass. You can actually get one at the airport at the check-in counter after presenting your photo ID, but make sure you contact the airline first just to avoid any potential conflicts. Some airlines will also let you meet minors or persons with disability upon landing at the arrival gate (you should contact your airline to see if this is applicable).
The Airport Escort Pass works like a boarding pass. You will have to clear airport security and comply with the same regulations as an airline passenger, meaning you can’t have liquids on you, or bring weapons, etc. Airport Escort Pass only works with domestic flights in the United States, so don’t expect to be issued one if your buddy is jetting off to France.
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Now, every airline has a different policy, and most U.S. airlines, like American, Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United, offer Airport Escort Passes. United allows an escort pass for those accompany a military service member, and those two will have access to the United Club Lounge, which is an amazing perk.
Airline Escort Passes are free and not new. Airlines have provided them for a while, but not a lot of people know about it.
The second way to go through airport security without a boarding pass is a trend that *is* new.
Airports have been toying with a concept called “terminal tourism,” which allows non-booked passengers to go through security without a boarding pass to shop and dine in the restaurants.
In 2017, Pittsburgh International Airport was the first airport in America to offer this with MyPITpass (unfortunately, no longer in service). The public was able to get the myPITpass at the designated ticket counter on the third floor of the Landside Terminal (with a government-issued photo ID). This pass allows them to go through an Alternate Security Checkpoint (with only one personal item, like a purse or bag) to shop but also see friends and family off at the gate (or meet them upon arrival). Hopefully this will come back.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport followed suit in 2018 with a pilot Visitor Pass program, but it has since ended. In the trial period, 1,165 visitors enrolled in the program, and according to Port Seattle, the airport is still determining whether they will continue the program.
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Detroit Metropolitan County Airport offers the Destination Pass Program, where the public can go past security, so you can shop and dine or accompany family and friends to their boarding gate. You would have to register first and pick up your pass at the McNamara Terminal.
Now, New Orleans International Airport, which unveiled a stunning, $1.3 billion terminal last year, is offering the opportunity to go past security, mainly to allow locals to indulge in the amazing restaurants that are famous in New Orleans, like Cafe Du Monde, as well as staple dishes, like creole at Ye Olde College Inn. The MSY Guest Pass allows the public without a boarding pass to visit these new restaurants and shops.
If you want one of these passes, you have to register 24 hours in advance, and the passes are limited to 50 visitors on weekdays and 100 over the weekend.
To sum it up, only Pittsburgh, Tampa, Detroit and New Orleans offer passes to go past security without a boarding ticket.
These passes are mainly intended for locals.
Now, everyone knows flying causes dry eyes. DEFINITELY have Rohto with you on planes. You’ll thank me later for them.
Do you have any tips about going past airport security without a boarding pass? Let us know in the comments below.
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