Ah, the good ol’ pre-9/11 days of air travel, when you could go through security with a baseball bat and without taking your shoes off. You could even stay with your loved ones before they got onto the plane or meet them at the gate when they arrived!
Well, the first one isn’t happening any time soon, and the second one won’t happen unless you pay for TSA Pre-Check. But the third and fourth ones COULD become a possibility in the not-too-distant future, if a certain TSA experiment works out well.
The trial is running at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) from November 9 through December 14, during which time they will allow airport visitors to meet their friends or family at the gate, or to stay with them until they board.
Now, of course, times have (obviously) changed and doing this isn’t as simple as it used to be. Since it’s a trial, everything has to be just so, while not messing with everyday activities at the airport. So if you want to take part in the experiment, you have to apply online, because they’re only going to allow 50 visitors per day. Enrollment sign ups happen on the Port of Seattle’s website between 7:30am and 1:30pm on the day before your visit, and are only good for domestic flights. If you get an approval email from TSA by midnight of that day, you then have to pick up a pass when you arrive at the airport the next day.
And, of course, you can’t just go up to the gate like you used to years ago. The 50 per day who’ve been chosen to meet their people at the gate will have to have photo ID with them and go through the regular TSA checkpoint (no TSA Pre-Check or CLEAR lines allowed).
The trial at SEA will only happen between 8am and 9pm on Tuesdays through Saturday, so as not to overwhelm security checkpoints. Oh, and you’re strongly encouraged to check out the shopping and dining options at the airport while you’re there ;-).
A similar trial happened at Pittsburgh International Airport about a year ago and was deemed a success, with no overt disruption to the flow of the security checkpoint.
So cross your fingers that this, and whatever possible future trials are a success, so perhaps visitors can once again access the gate area, for that last kiss goodbye or the first, “Hi! How was your flight?”
For more info about the trial at SEA-TAC airport, or to sign up for same, go to this page of the Port of Seattle’s website.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary