A scheme to let non-flyers through the security gates

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In an era of strict security checks and other inconveniences for air travel, one American airport is making a sharp move in the opposite direction. On September 5th, Pittsburgh International will become the first American airport since the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 to allow people who are not booked on a flight to pass through security. Families will be able to see loved ones off as they board their flight. Children will be able to join a travelling parent to watch planes take off. Friends will be able to eat and shop at the stores that flyers normally frequent (in Pittsburgh, some retailers, such as Hugo Boss, Armani Jeans and Bar Symon, only have shops in the airport).

Pittsburgh International has been pushing for years for this change, which flies in the face of the Transportation Security Administration’s policy of trying to reduce the number of people and bags going through the meticulous checks. However, non-travellers will still be subject to inspections as rigorous as those for flyers. And to enter security they will first have to show their ID at a designated counter, where their names will be scanned on the no-fly-list database, in order to receive a one-day pass that lets them through. The scheme will initially run just from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, but it is hoped the hours will be extended.

This is not an entirely novel concept at Pittsburgh. The TSA there has permitted non-passengers through the cordon to the swanky shops on the occasional one-day holiday since 2014. According to the chief executive of the airport authority, around 3,000 people took advantage of those holidays; the boss of the airport’s Airmall says sales improved “100 per cent”. The question is whether the new scheme will be a success and expand to other airports. A TSA spokesman describes it as a one-off arrangement between Pittsburgh International and TSA staff at the airport and that it is “not part of a larger nationwide initiative.”

But if other airports, and their retailers, city officials and representatives in Congress, see this as a big revenue booster, they will surely push to implement it elsewhere (although one local congressman in Pittsburgh was perhaps exaggerating when he said “It’s really a very, very exciting moment in our country”.)

There are potential drawbacks. The TSA is already struggling to contain long queues; adding non-flyers won’t help. Officials from the TSA and the airport promise that passengers will get priority when the lines back up, but they are vague about how this will be implemented. (Will families be split up if one member is flying and the others are accompanying him, for example?) Moreover, it is entirely possible that not many people will want to go through airport security if they don’t have to. The odd thing about this scheme is that the more successful it is, the more problematic it gets. If enough people decide that a jaunt through security is worth it to get good food and drink, the queues could swell around happy hour.

Still, it’s a welcome change to see an airport become friendlier and more accommodating—and for the TSA to co-operate and make it happen.

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Julio Marchi ©

Publisher / Editor at BS News & Media Services
A free thinker, not labelled as anything, not associated with any party, not part of any group or engaged with any religion... A simple guy tired of the nowadays bullshit who decided to promote more serious debates about what is really happening hoping to bring back intelligence to the superficial and shallow news & headlines that unfortunately took over the existing media scene.
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