16 Years After 9/11, One Airport Opens Up The Airside Terminal For Non-Passengers


I loved visiting the airport as a kid.

Watching planes taking off so gracefully always amazed me. Being able to leisurely stroll around without running to catch a flight was a treat.

The post-millennial “iGeneration” has grown up not being able to do that without a boarding pass or a special exception. Until now.

Under a TSA pilot program, non-flyers can once again access the secured airside of the terminal in Pittsburgh. For now the program is only in effect from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, but if it goes well the program will be expanded.

If security lines get too long then non-passengers will have to wait until the line shortens in order to get an airside pass. Non-passenger names are also checked against no-fly lists, after all, IDs are no longer checked at the gate.

Kids will love riding the train and watching planes take off while adults can shop at stores that don’t exist in Pittsburgh outside of the airport Airmall.

The new program has generated some controversy. Bob Ross, the president of the flight attendants APFA union said,

“Allowing the non-flying public to go through security at the Pittsburgh International Airport for the sole purpose of shopping is a terrible precedent and an ill-conceived decision.

Flight attendants are the last line of defense on an aircraft and as first responders, we know this move by TSA is a bad idea that needs to be reversed,” claimed the president of the APFA, which represents more than 26,000 American Airlines flight attendants. “Aviation security relies on a layered approach where if terrorists breach a layer, second and third layers come into play to protect us. Letting our guard down in Pittsburgh or any other airport for the benefit of retailers is not the right approach to airline safety and security.

Days prior to the anniversary of 9-11 is when we should be reminding the public of the need to remain vigilant — not sending the message that the airport is no different than their local mall”

Frankly, I have no idea what Mr. Ross is talking about. But kudos to him for managing to throw in 9/11 as a reason why non-passengers shouldn’t be allowed to go through security to experience the airport terminal like in the good old days…

One nice thing about the program will be dropping off and picking up loved ones at the gate. While you can sometimes get an airside pass in special circumstances, that is typically reserved for young children or the elderly.

I used to use my lifetime United Club membership to gain access to the airside section of the terminal. When I was engaged to Mimi I used my membership in order to greet her right at the gate. However United killed that ability last year, which only left buying a refundable ticket as the option to gain airside access in a pinch.

Would you take your kids to visits the airport if this program came to your home airport? Or are the hassles of airport parking and the TSA too much to put up with unless you’re flying? Hit the comments!

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30 Comments on "16 Years After 9/11, One Airport Opens Up The Airside Terminal For Non-Passengers"

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Yet another reason to love the Pittsburgh Airport. Renting a car there is a cinch, you literally go pick your car up straight across from arrivals – no shuttle required. Return fueling is no problem as there’s a Sunoco in the airport “loop” around. Plus an alternative security check point through another entrance cuts the traffic down during busy times. Such an easy airport to deal with for travel!


Wishful thinking but would love to be able to provide my KTN and at go precheck.


Would TSA precheck work to get you through security faster? If so the id love to take my kids to watch he planes! Also , if you need to go through security then why is this putting flight attendants in danger? I don’t understand him.


Will the allow TSApre members use those lines if they won’t be flying? If yes, then that would be great.




I’d for sure take my kids!


I have one fond memory of this when i was younger, my brother was flying to take a Farher (Test) in another state for High School – Being a curious/learning family, my parents asked the flight attendants at the gate if we could check out/explore the inside of the plane a little? We got the go ahead, my entire family (8 of us) strolled in there, it was incredible. Firstly the Cockpit was wide open, we were hocking up the Pilots about every switch, gage etc. lol Secondly, we were sitting on the seats without a boarding pass. It was an incredible experience. What really made it an incredible experience is how free we were to roam around vs how strict security got now. This is beautiful!


Dan, I also remember loving going to the airport as a kid. I would go to JFK airport and go to that classic TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen that is shaped like a bird, and it had 2 beautiful futuristic-like tunnels that led you airside, which of course you could just walk thru w/o security. Remember seeing those massive TWA 747-100’s and -200’s at the gate..was awesome


definitely yes, they would love it and would be a very good treat for them

reb yid

It’s unfathomable to me how you can’t understand what he’s talking about. Do you really not understand the layered approach to security that he’s referring to? The fewer people in the better, and carefully screen those that do come in.

It seems that anytime there’s a security procedure in place you claim not to understand it and imply that others have no idea what they’re doing. Do you not ever consider the distinct possibility that others may have a valid approach? Or that you’re just interested in the hedonistic aspect of travel and are putting security on the back burner? Do try to have some modicum of respect for the intelligence of others.


hiya all, i run all over JFK airport to try to get a good look of the runways with my kids and family. we go on the airtrain in order to see the planes take off and land. just about every summer we go to the NY airshow at Stewart airport to see the awesomeness of air travel! we rarely get to go on the planes so we run to watch them. (except for on chanukah where dansdeals posted great tickets to Miami). i have been googling “airport tours” for years with nothing coming up. my family would absolutely go to any of these places to watch the planes! all the best


mordechai – although it is tough after 9/11 in general, I have called up and have gotten private tours of a few control towers at airports..in the NY area a number of years ago but after 9/11 I got a tour of Newark tower which obviously had amazing views and a great tour..just look up the number for the airport control tower and call and just politely ask..you would be surprised that alot of airports would allow it


Couldn’t this open a door to people buying tickets and other people actually boarding the plane?

For example, Eli has status or a CC that allows him free luggage but Avi does not. So Eli buys the ticket in his name, and BOTH go to the airport and through security. Net result, Avi flies with free luggage and Eli does his buddy a chesed.

Or am I missing something?


Nope. You are missing a lot.


Good question. Any answers ? Because no one checks the boarding pass at the gate!


This doesn’t open any doors.


The loophole of buying refundable airline tickets (or a dirt-cheap regular fare) already exists. And the main way it is used is to allow someone to resell an expensive ticket, and the other person only needs to buy a cheap/refundable ticket to get past security.

Philly nstive

Wow. Fascinating story. When I was growing up in Philadelphia (1970s), airport parking was free, and you could go all the way to the gates without even a ticket. A very cheap, but exotic date was to drive to the airport and walk around pretending to be travelling someplace. If I was lucky, a jetway would be open to a parked plane, and I could go on board and sit down in first class (although the airport guards would kick me off if they saw me go on board). Never had a ticket. Never asked for ID. Of course, that was BBT (before ba’al tshuvah). Imagine how many frum couples would stroll around JFK if the airports were still open instead of going to overpriced noisy bars in Manhattan!
By the way, I love the Pittsburgh airport Hyatt. Very convenient for getting rest before early morning flights.


Years ago the TSA wanted to start allowing very small knives on a plane (such as non-locking folding knives below a certain size). The airline union fought that too and the TSA capitulated. You can’t bring a butter knife on a plane, but first class is handed them with meals. The union is just perpetuating a environment of fear. I say this is a big step forward, and I look forward to the program being expanded.


I remember going into the cockpit and schmoozing with the pilot during flying. I definitely think my kids would enjoy the airport

Ryan L Yaple

DTW has a quasi similar program but only for people staying at the Westin. “Beyond Screening Checkpoint Program
Go where no non-traveling hotel guest has gone before with the new Beyond the Screening Checkpoint Program, which allows registered overnight hotel guests at The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport Hotel access to the shops and restaurants in the McNamara Terminal.” http://www.westindetroitmetroairport.com/hotel-features


Umm… Won’t this make for crazy lines @ security?