Since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, airports have had their gates in a vice grip. It seems like security checkpoints update their strict rules and regulations every other week. This makes travel—especially international travel—a rather difficult hassle. What is safe to go through the security checkpoint in one country is strictly banned in another. For example, in America you can have loose change in your carry on bag or purse without an issue. However, if you arrive in China with coins in your purse, you will need to fish out every last one.
These little discrepancies consume time and energy for travelers, but place an exceptional burden on security guards. This is part of why certain airports in the USA have decided to allow for non-passengers to go through security checkpoints.
Whether a non-passenger wants to see a loved one off before they leave to go abroad, or they simply want to eat at the only Potbelly’s in the state, three airports in the States have decided to open their doors to non-passengers. This is incredible news for those who want to be near those they care about when they can’t necessarily afford to buy an extraneous—or even refundable—airline ticket.
While these patrons are waived the hustle of going through the traditional security gate, they are still vetted through a specialized security system that will likely become more sophisticated as the trend spreads throughout the world. At the Pittsburgh airport for example, non-passengers check in at the specific non-departures level of the airport. Their information is then run against a secure “no fly” list, to ensure the security of everyone in the area. Then non-passengers are granted a stamp which allows them access to the areas beyond the security gates. The Seattle and Tampa airports have implemented a similar protocol.
This process eases up the burden on security gate guards as well as frees up the traffic flow for security checks. Merchants will also garner more business from shoppers and diners who are simply killing time before their friends take off. It truly is a win for everyone involved.
These programs are still in their infancy and will require tweaking as the process becomes more widespread. However, if these early years go well with few incidents, perhaps larger hubs like O’hare and JFK will jump through the legal hoops required to make such a beneficial change.