Seattle to Become Second Major Airport to Open Non-Traveler Terminal Post-9/11

Nov 9, 2018

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Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is testing out a new plan that would make it the one of the only airports in the US to allow non-travelers in the restricted passenger-only areas beyond security.

Dubbed the “Visitor Pass Program,” the plan allows guests without same-day tickets to reach domestic gates within the terminal. According to a statement from the airport and reported by the Seattle Times, the program is set to begin Nov. 9 and is available to people who meet Transportation Security Administration requirements.

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, non-ticketed guests were permitted to go beyond security checkpoints, allowing them to see friends and family off on their travels directly from the gate. With Seattle-Tacoma’s (SEA) Visitor Pass Program, that option is once again available in certain circumstances.

So what are those circumstances? Well, in order to get past security as a non-ticketed passenger, you must be quick. SEA will only allow 50 visitors per day, and you must sign up online before 1:30pm on the day before your visit. If you’ve been pre-approved, the TSA will notify you via email. The next day, you must pick up your pass at the airport after showing proper photo identification. Approved visitors will be required to go through the same security procedures as ticketed passengers.

For now, access is limited to Tuesday through Sunday between the hours of 8am and 10pm. The trial period will end on Dec. 14.

“For me it is nostalgic,” said Lance Lyttle, managing director of SEA. “As a child I used to go to the airport and watch loved ones board the plane and depart. The fact that you can say goodbye to your loved one or child or meet them at the gate and surprise them is very exciting.”

In 2017, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) became the first airport in the country to introduce a similar program following the Sept. 11 attacks. Intrigued by the program, SEA sent a team to PIT to learn about what would be needed to start its own visitor access program.

“Pittsburgh did the heavy lifting and figured out the TSA regulations,” said Perry Cooper, SEA spokesperson. “We said let’s give it a try and see how much interest we get.”

If SEA’s Visitor Pass Program is determined to be a success, the program will continue beyond December.

In addition to allowing guests into the airport to be with their family or friends throughout the airport experience, SEA is also hoping to boost retailers and restaurants in the terminal with the prospect of more potential customers.

Featured image by George Rose / Getty Images.

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