Remember the “old days” when you could go out to the gates at the airport to send a loved one off or be there with a big hug to greet them as soon as they exited the plane?
In the United States that rite of travel ended after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. But at some airports it is coming back.
In 2017, Pittsburgh International Airport introduced the MyPITpass program, which enables nonticketed visitors to apply for a one-day pass to proceed through the TSA checkpoints and access the secure side of the airport.
Now Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has rolled out the SEA Visitor Pass, a pilot program that gives the public access to activities past the security checkpoints. If all goes well, the program may be extended year-round.
“It’s been 17 years since anyone without a ticket has been able to enjoy areas of the airport beyond security,” Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins said. “And yet some of the airport’s best features are there. Great restaurants, local musicians performing in the concourses and some of the best views of the planes coming and going against the backdrop of Mount Rainier and the Olympics.”
Sea-Tac’s visitor pass pilot program runs through Dec. 15 and will allow nonticketed visitors through security checkpoints Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Only 50 visitors will be allowed into the airport each of those days.
According to the Port of Seattle, visitors will need to apply online before 1:30 p.m. the day before they wish to visit the airport and, if the TSA approves their application, the visitor will be notified by midnight the day before they plan to enter. All visitors will be required to go through the same security checkpoint requirements as ticketed passengers, and meeting travelers at the gates will be restricted to domestic arrivals only.
Beyond sending off or welcoming home a friend or family member, there are plenty of reasons to voluntarily spend time post-security at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
SEA has a world-class art collection that includes works by Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson and many other noted national and regional artists, and a live music program that features local performers seven days a week. Shopping options, which include a Sub Pop record mart and a branch of Ex Officio travel clothing, have recently been refreshed and expanded. And dining options include local favorites such as Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Anthony’s Restaurant and Floret, a sit-down vegetarian restaurant that is an offshoot of the well-known Café Flora.
Harriet Baskas is a Seattle-based airports and aviation writer and USA TODAY Travel’s “At the Airport” columnist. She occasionally contributes to Ben Mutzabaugh’s Today in the Sky blog. Follow her at twitter.com/hbaskas.
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