Remember the days when just about anyone could meet you or see you off at your airport gate?
Rules about who could pass through airport security tightened after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, but they’re about to get a bit looser again, and Pittsburgh International Airport is leading the charge.
Earlier this week, the airport announced that it will become the first in the country to once again allow members of the general public to go beyond security checkpoints without requiring an airline ticket. Officials are calling this act “going airside.”
According to a release, PIT will offer this option in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration, and there will be no reduction in security as a result. Members of the public who wish to go through will be required to obtain a special document in advance. That document, dubbed the myPITpass, is a piece of background-checked clearance that expires after 24 hours.
PIT officials are selling the new program as an opportunity for non-travelers to join travelers and access shops and restaurants beyond the checkpoints, although people can take advantage of the program for any reason they wish.
To get a special access pass, travelers must check-in with a valid ID. They also must obtain a pass on the day of use; hours for issuing passes will be Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Once people get these passes, they are subject to all of the same security measures as ticketed passengers—shoes off, laptops out, liquids in a clear Ziploc bag, etcetera. Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for PIT, says ticketed passengers will receive priority in the checkpoint line and that all rules for carry-on luggage will apply to those with myPITpass access.
“Participants should be prepared to receive the same level of security screening as travelers and should ensure they’re not carrying any prohibited items such as weapons before coming through the security checkpoint,” Keys-Turner was quoted as saying in the release.
However the new program works, it’s worth noting that even grizzled travel industry veterans didn’t realize individual airports now have authority to determine who goes where on site.
Henry Harteveldt, travel industry expert and cofounder of the Atmosphere Research Group, said he was “not aware” that airports had this kind of control. Harteveldt said he was hearing “mixed” comments about the move, adding that travelers are concerned the extra numbers will add to already-lengthy security wait times.
In response to these concerns, a TSA spokesperson told The Points Guy and various other outlets that the organization “did not need to hire additional personnel to accommodate this program,” and that it “does not anticipate that there will be any impact on checkpoint wait times.”