Time for SeaTac passengers to celebrate - the airport has launched a pilot program that allows visitors past security to meet their loved ones at the gate. It used to be the norm to accompany friends and family all the way to the gate when either saying goodbye or welcoming them home; and we can still see this in older TV and movies, as characters are seen having their tearful moments only seconds before getting on the plane.
However, airport security changed dramatically after the events of 9/11, and the days of strolling through to the gate with a loved one are over - those tearful goodbyes take place before security, and joyful hellos have to wait until passengers are out in the main terminal. Now, however, it looks like one airport may be going back to the days of being able to eke out every last second with a loved one before their trip - as SeaTac considers allowing visitors all the way to the gate.
The pilot program launched on the 9th of November, and will continue until December 14. The 'Visitor Pass Program' allows for up to 50 people per day to accompany friends and family to their gate without a ticket. Visitors must sign up via the website in advance (by at least 1:30pm the day before), and require photo ID. They must also pass through the TSA security, following the same rules as ticketed passengers. It is only available for domestic flights, Tues-Sun, 8am - 10pm.
Despite the limitations, this could be a huge boon to travelers, especially as SeaTac is the nearest airport to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a large military base nearby. SeaTac is also a hub airport for Delta and Alaska Airlines, and is the 9th busiest airport in the US.
If this program takes off, SeaTac may well start allowing larger numbers of people to use these 'day passes', and that means more advantages than just having people able to say hello and goodbye a little bit closer to their flight times. Bringing visitors into the airport is likely to boost revenue, as people can choose to stop for a meal with their friends/family before seeing them off, and may stick around to do a little shopping after saying their goodbyes. It means that minors flying alone will need less supervision from airport staff, if they are able to have a parent/guardian come with them right up to the gate - which will also help young travelers and their families to feel safer and less anxious about their trips. It may even help with lines at security; if people are able to bring friends/family to the airport, they may choose to arrive earlier for their flight and spend more time past security - which means fewer security bottlenecks holding us up. As a pilot program, we won't know if this is going to remain in place until next year, but we can certainly hope that this catches on at SeaTac - and other airports across the country.