This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

In the good old days of air travel (i.e., before 9/11), your friends and family could accompany you to airport for a hearty send-off meal or a hug at the gate.

Now the good-byes take place unceremoniously at the curb or as you join the security checkpoint line.

But some airports have begun to change that scenario. Two U.S. airports now allow non-travelers to pass through TSA checkpoints so that they can patronize “airside” airport shops and restaurants.

This week, Tampa International Airport (airport code TPA) became the latest, announcing a Saturday-only pass program, called All-Access, that will allow up to 100 non-ticketed visitors to get gate passes to go beyond security and into the airside areas.

The first day of All-Access is Saturday, May 4, which just happens to coincide with the launch of several Mother’s Day specials and discounts at many TPA shops and restaurants.

“To those feeling left out because you can’t get to all these great restaurants and shops we’ve been touting: We heard you,” TPA CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement announcing the program. “Now families, foodies or even couples looking for a unique date experience can come try our chargrilled oysters at Ulele, sample locally brewed beer at Cigar City and shop for unique gifts at our duty-free and fine retail stores without having to buy a ticket.”

To get one of the TPA gate passes, you’ll do need to sign-up for a pass at least 24 hours before the Saturday you want to visit.

You’ll also need to choose which airside area you wish to visit. While 100 total passes will be issued each Saturday, they’ll be capped at 25 each for TPA’s A, C, E and F concourses. To choose where you want to hang out, consult this list of restaurants and shops at each airside terminal.

Visitors will be able to pick up and use their passes anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on the day of their approved visit. Passes can be picked up at the information kiosk on Level 3 of the Main Terminal. As with ticketed passengers, everyone will need a valid photo ID and everyone will have to go through security screening. Be sure to read the program rules for any other restrictions.

TPA follows  Pittsburgh International, and others

Tampa International isn’t the first U.S. airport to bring back this amenity.

In the summer of 2017, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) introduced “MyPITPass,” a program that gives the non-traveling public access to the shops, restaurants and artwork beyond the security checkpoints. The PIT gate passes are issued Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (no advance sign-up necessary) and each pass is valid for the day it’s issued.

PIT’s program has become quite popular, with between 50 and 100 people per day using the program in the winter and 150 per day in the summer, said PIT spokesman Bob Kerlik.

In November 2018, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport launched a temporary Visitor Pass program to allow non-ticketed visitors into the secure side of the airport. The pilot program ran through Dec. 14, 2018. During that time, 1,165 visitors enrolled via the online site.

The Port of Seattle which operates the airport, has said it would study the feasibility of continuing SEA Visitor Pass program at Sea-Tac.

No announcement has yet been made about if or when it might come back, but airport spokesman Perry Cooper says: “Users were very enthusiastic and we are exploring re-starting the program later this year.”

Other airports may be considering their own visitor pass programs.

“Other airports have reached out to us,” said PIT’s Bob Kerlik, though he declined to identify them. “I don’t want to say which ones, though, because I don’t want spoil anything they’re working on.”

Featured image: Courtesy of Tampa International Airport.


Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card



CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.