This TSA Test Will Let Some Non-Flyers Roam Around the Airport

It's tough to remember what flying was like before 9/11, when you didn't have to take off your shoes at security, or remove your laptops, or receive handsy pat-downs from surly TSA agents. Back then, you didn't even need a plane ticket to roam the airport -- you could quickly whisk through the metal detectors and greet grandma at her gate.

And while it's unlikely post-9/11 security screenings will ever get any less thorough, the TSA is experimenting with a new program that'll once again allow people to wander at least one major US airport without having a ticket.

The new pilot program, which is scheduled to begin at Pittsburgh International Airport on September 5, will allow non-flying passengers to pass through security between 9am and 5pm Monday through Friday. You can't just casually saunter in, though. You'll need to flash a valid ID or passport at a designated kiosk and receive a "myPITpass," which you then bring with you through the security line and checkpoint (you'll still be subject to a full security screening as if you were actually catching a flight). Also, they'll pause handing out access passes depending on the level of gridlock in the security line.

According to Bloomberg, the program was pitched to the TSA by the airport, which considers itself a community hub packed with retailers and restaurants locals want to visit in spite of the fact that they're inside an airport. In fact, up until 9/11, the airport was apparently a hangout where non-passengers would regularly drop by for dinner. It does boast a number of better-than-average airport eateries, including one by celeb chef Michael Symon.

Unfortunately, the TSA doesn't have any plans to expand the program to include other airports at the moment. However, it's not hard to imagine other airports petitioning for similar setups, especially if the one at PIT proves successful.

Who knows, the "race through the airport" rom-com trope may soon be making a comeback.


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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.