Remember the good old days, when we didn’t have to worry about going through the TSA security checkpoints? We’d just check in, go through a metal detector, and then go to the gate. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Loved ones could accompany you to the gate for that last goodbye, or they could meet you there when your flight landed.
Of course, you can still technically go all the way to the gate, even without a boarding pass, if you’re accompanying someone who needs special assistance before they get onto a plane. It’s a smart way to make sure that kids or people with mobility problems or other disabilities safely arrive at the departure gate.
However, in the couple of years before Covid, a handful of airports were experimenting with programs that allowed non-passengers to pass the TSA checkpoint, even if they weren’t with someone who needed the assistance. Of course, they weren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts or so you could be in a good place for plane spotting. It was intended so people could potentially take advantage of the airside shopping and dining opportunities.
Anyway, some of those programs happened and fizzled out. For the ones that turned it into a permanent thing, a couple have discontinued them (I’m looking at you, Tampa and Pittsburgh), supposedly “temporarily” (is a program really “temporary” if it’s been discontinued for 2+ years?). However there are currently ten airports in the U.S. that still offer this service:
- Bishop International Airport (FNT): FNT Visitor Pass
- Capital Region International Airport (LAN): LAN Visitor Pass
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW): DTW Destination Pass
- John Wayne Airport (SNA): OC AirPASS
- Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY): MSY Guest Pass
- Ontario International Airport (ONT): ONT+ Visitor Pass
- Orlando International Airport (MCO): Experience MCO Visitor Pass
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA): Visitor Pass
- Tri-Cities Airport (PSC): PSC Pass
- Tulsa International Airport (TUL): TUL Visitor Pass
Actually, you can now say ELEVEN airports that offer it, because effective November 1st, Philadelphia Airport (PHL) has started offering airside access to those without a ticket. They’re calling it their Wingmate Guest Pass Program.
The PHL Wingmate Pass is an exclusive amenity granting you access to the secure side of the airport. With a Wingmate Pass, non-ticketed guests of PHL passengers can now share in unforgettable airport experiences. Whether you’re supporting family in their journey to their gate or planning a heartwarming surprise for a friend arriving on a domestic flight, a Wingmate Pass will get you there.
Up to 50 people per day will be allowed to participate.
To get a day pass, visitors will need to apply between 1 and 7 days before their intended visit. They’ll have to provide the reason for the visit and the same identifying information they typically do when they purchase a plane ticket, including name, date of birth, and email address. Once approved by TSA, customers receive a digital ticket.
After arriving at the airport, visitors will be able to head straight to security at terminals D, E, or A-East to access the secure side of the airport. They’ll present their ticket and go through the regular TSA screen queue.
Pass-holders can access the airport between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., and must leave by 10 p.m. on the day of their approved pass. There’s a six-hour limit for the visit, and visitors will need to request a new pass each time they want to come to visit the airport, but not fly.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary