PITTSBURGH – Earlier this week, Pittsburgh International Airport announced that non-passengers would regain access to the airport’s secure airside terminal beginning on September 5th.
Non-passengers ranging from families seeing off family members to shoppers and diners unfazed by elevated airport prices will be allowed to access the post-security terminal at Pittsburgh International beginning September 5th. The catch is that non-passengers will still be required to show a government ID and comply with standard security protocols.
Non-flying visitors will need to request a day-pass for the airport under the “myPITpass” program from a special counter in the airport’s ticketing and check in area. Access will initially be restricted to the hours between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm on weekdays. And according to the TSA, if queues are heavy, ticketed passengers will receive priority for screening.
Non-passengers have not been able to access the secure flight area at airports for nearly 16 years (since 9/11), and both security concerns and overloading of security lines have been cited as reasons to retain such a policy.
Since non-passengers will be required to undergo the same screening as passengers, the actual security concerns based on this move should be pretty limited.
But the question of overloaded security queues is a real one. In the worst case scenario, if a family of five all comes to the airport to see off one parent that is traveling and that pattern is repeated by just 20% of flying customers, you’ve essentially doubled the length of your security line at any given moment.
The airport claims that it doesn’t expect any impact on wait times and that the TSA in Pittsburgh is already staffed to hire any additional visitors as a result of the move. We are skeptical of these claims, though the 9:00 am to 5:00 pm time slot does limit exposure to peak travel periods.
At the same time, those time limits also call into question the degree to which the day pass program will attract shoppers to Pittsburgh’s once famed “Airmall” as those shops will be unaccessible during peak hours for shopping after work. But certainly, some stores exclusive to Airmall in the Pittsburgh metro area, like Hugo Boss and Armani Jeans, will draw in customers.
And there will be benefits for non-shoppers as well – the textbook example being parents seeing off unaccompanied minors. And the nation will be watching Pittsburgh’s experiment closely to see if it can be replicated in other non-hub markets.