One of my fondest memories from childhood was visiting Cleveland Hopkins Airport and having the ability to walk all the way to the arrival/departure gate to pick up my family when they came for vacation.
I distinctly remember these experiences because Hopkins also had an outdoor observation deck where you could watch arriving and departing planes (Yes, I was AV geek even as a toddler).
At that time, you were able to have both of these experiences without having to go through security.
AND THEN 9/11
After 9/11, a lot of changes were made to airport security. One of the major changes was that only ticketed passengers with a departing flight were able to go past security. There were a few exceptions (e.g. you are able to request permission to escort an unaccompanied minor to the gate).
THE GOOD OL’ DAYS ARE BACK?
In September 2017, TSA launched a pilot program at the Pittsburgh International (PIT) Airport that would allow non-ticketed passengers the ability to clear security, however, there were a quite a few restrictions.
Then in November 2018, Seattle Tacoma (SEA) Airport rolled out the same program.
Within a few months, the program picked up speed and grew to include other airports such as Tampa and Detroit.
BEIGNETS FROM CAFE DU MONDE?
In November 2019, New Orleans opened the sparkling new $1 billion, 35-gate Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY) and officials took a different spin on the program.
In an attempt to capitalize on all of the fanfare of the new airport, officials created the “MSY Guest Pass” program.
With more than 40 post-security concessions, the airport is allowing non-ticketed visitors into the airport to enjoy airside shops and restaurants.
Similar to the other airports, there are quite a few restrictions:
- Open daily but entry only permitted between 11:00AM – 8:00PM
- Access limited to 50 people per day on weekdays and 100 per day on weekends
- Visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult
- You’ll have to apply for a guest pass at least 24 hours in advance through the airport’s website
- You’ll need to present a valid US government issued photo ID
And according to NOLA.com, you’ll only be able to take advantage of the so-called guest pass once a month.
Once you arrive, visitors must check in at a customer service station and show a valid ID. From there, you’ll be issued a gate pass and directed to a TSA checkpoint. Yes, folks, you’ll have to go through airport security and abide by the same screening procedures and rules as you would if you were actually getting on a plane.
I love going to the airport however I’m also asking myself “…but would I go to the airport to eat if I weren’t flying somewhere?”
I don’t think the TSA requirements are too unreasonable. However, I don’t particularly enjoy going through security when I actually have a flight so I’m not sure I would subject myself to the stress of applying a day ahead of time, and paying for parking for a Beignet.
I think this could be a great initiative. However, I can see a few complications that may arise if the program is expanded. For example, what happens if the number is expanded from 50 to 1000? Or expanded to everyone? TSA lines are already long. Are they going to be longer now?
Many international hub airports are extremely congested (EWR, ORD, ATL, LAX, etc.). Is allowing non-ticketed passengers access to the secured airside creating more congestion?
So will MSY be your new favorite spot for an after-work happy hour?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Did you know that in Australia, no boarding pass is required to go through security at domestic terminals?