Pre-approval shortcuts increasingly help select passengers skip the long airport security lines that define today’s travel. And now, a second U.S. airport is hoping to loosen the gate pickup and drop-off prohibitions that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, known as Sea-Tac, has proposed just such a measure, believed to be only the second airport to request this change since the attacks greatly tightened airport security and limited non-ticketed visitors from freely moving about the nation’s airports.
Last year, Pittsburgh International Airport became the first in the nation to introduce visitors back into the terminal.
Sea-Tac operator, the Port of Seattle, is conducting a test of the program that began Nov. 9 and runs through Dec. 14. It allows 50 visitors per day; sign up is required online before 1:30 p.m. on the day before a visit. Visitors with passes must also have a photo ID and go through the same TSA checkpoint as ticketed passengers. The airport will gauge the response to the program during the trial run and make a decision on its continuation after December.
Lance Lyttle, managing director of Sea-Tac airport, told the Seattle Times that the airport hopes to generate more revenue by having visitors stay longer and eat and shop in the terminals. He stressed that nostalgia for emotional airport hellos and good-byes is also driving the return policy.
Port officials were also asked whether adding more people to security lines is advisable. They believe that wait times will not increase because terminal access for visitors so far is restricted to Tuesday through Sunday between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. in order to not overwhelm security checkpoints.
Pittsburgh, according to the news report, claims not to have seen much impact on wait times or security from inviting visitors back into its terminals.
Still, long lines and the risk of missed flights is a factor that airports wishing to reinstate a similar program will have to consider. Wait times in general have eased since a particularly rough summer for travel in 2016, says Condé Nast Traveler, although the ability of travelers to get up-to-minute line updates is still lacking.