When you get to the TSA security checkpoint at the airport, you typically show your I.D. and boarding pass to the TSA officer, who makes sure everything looks legit. You then continue on to the scanner screening of you and the stuff you’re carrying. Of course, if you’re a minor who doesn’t have I.D., or you’re using CLEAR, which uses biometric information, the “how they know that you say who you are” may be different, but the end result is the same – they know you’re you, and it matches the boarding pass, so the TSA agent sends you on your merry way.
A while back, we went over what can be done if you get to the TSA checkpoint and don’t have your I.D. But did you know you can sometimes get through without a boarding pass? There are 2 ways to go about it:
Airport Escort Pass
At any airport in the U.S., you can go all the way to the gate, without a boarding pass, if you’re accompanying a minor or someone with a disability who needs special assistance before they get onto a plane. It’s a way to ensure that children or people with mobility problems or other disabilities safely arrive at the departure gate.
Each airline has pretty much the same process – when you arrive at the airport, you go to the Customer Service Agent, explain that you need an Airport Escort Pass so you can stay with the minor/person with special needs at the gate until it’s time for them to go onto the plane. You’ll definitely have to show your photo I.D. and potentially your address, contact phone number and, in the event of a child flying, the name, address and phone number of the adult meeting the unaccompanied minor at their destination. Check with your airline of choice for specifics for that particular airline (i.e., Alaska specifies that one or two adults, plus any children under age 13, will be allowed through the security checkpoint if someone needs an escort. Other airlines may only allow one adult).
Most airlines also allow you to meet minors and/or people with disabilities when the plane lands, at the gate. But again, check with the airline in question for specifics.
Anyway, once you have the Airline Escort Pass, you can go through the TSA checkpoint as you would if you were flying – except you’d show this pass instead of a boarding pass.
Heads up that this only works for domestic flights, not international. Also, a person with an Airport Access Pass CAN NOT use the TSA PreCheck queue, even if they have PreCheck status (as per my DM with AskTSA, “At this time, TSA PreCheck doesn’t apply to gate pass holders. You are only eligible for TSA PreCeck consideration when traveling”). It’s unclear if CLEAR could be used.
Also, TSA allows airlines to offer a gate pass to family members of arriving or departing U.S. servicemembers. However, the final decision rests with the airlines and the airport – check with both beforehand, and I suggest you get it in writing. 😉
Before COVID, a handful of airports were piloting programs allowing non-passengers to pass the TSA checkpoint. Of course, they weren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts or so you could get a better view of takeoffs and landings. It was so people could take advantage of the shopping and dining opportunities inside the secure area (for a place like One Flew South or Cask & Larder, I could see something like that. But for Sbarro or the Life Is Good shop? Maybe not so much).
Anyway, most of the 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), at least “temporarily,” due to COVID. However, there are a handful of airports that still offer this service.
Each has its own rules in terms of applying for a pass, as well as the availability of days/times. But honestly, if you have a loved one arriving at one of those airports during the time frame the airport allows non-ticketed people beyond the gate, who would be the wiser if you met them at the gate vs. bought something at Hudson News or ate at Chick-fil-A, y’know? 😉
Feature Photo: TSA
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