Tram Detroit Airport
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

List of Airports Open to Public Access September 2021 in the United States

Two of the six airports are temporarily closed.

Six airports in the United States — in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration — implemented programs which allow the public and visitors to access shops and restaurants beyond the security checkpoint of the terminal without requiring the purchase of an airline ticket at the time this article was written.

List of Airports Open to Public Access September 2021 in the United States

Public access to an airport allows visitors to take advantage of what the airport has to offer without traveling — including but not limited to:

  • Spending more time at the gate or a restaurant with family or friends who are traveling
  • Surprising a family member or a friend at a gate upon arrival
  • Participation in events
  • Dining on an amazing meal at one of the restaurants at the airport
  • Shopping at the many boutiques and stores
  • Attending a live music performance
  • Simply watching different types of airplanes depart and land

Each airport has a program which has its own rules and restrictions; so before you arrive at the airport, ensure that you know exactly what are the rules and restrictions. Be sure to allow enough time to get your access pass and get through the lines at the airport security checkpoint. Also, know what is the daily quota — if one exists — with each program.

To maintain airport security, regulations of the Transportation Security Administration prohibit airport personnel from verifying visitor entrance greater than 24 hours in advance. A new request will need to be completed for every visit on a different date.

As a visitor, you will be subject to the same security regulations as passengers boarding an aircraft and must comply with the screening procedures of the Transportation Security Administration, do not bring items which are prohibited by the Transportation Security Administration; and review the 3-1-1 Liquids Rules. Participants will be directed to use the general boarding lanes of the airport security checkpoint.

All passes and access are approved for personal use only, as commercial use or professional use is expressly forbidden and will result in revocation of your program access. Participation in each program is contingent upon approval through approved security protocols. Passes cannot be used with expedited screening and trusted traveler programs — such as CLEAR or TSA Pre✓ as two of several examples.

Each program can be ended at any time as required by the Transportation Security Administration.

Keep in mind that all parking fees are the responsibility of the visitor.

Airports are listed in alphabetical order in terms of city.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

The DTW Destination Pass program is permanently in place to allow visitors access to the secure side of the airport at both the McNamara Terminal and North Terminal between the hours of 8:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening Eastern Time. The last DTW Destination Pass will be issued at 7:30 in the evening.

Limit: 75 visitors per day. Because access is first come, first serve, registering early the day before you want to arrive may help ensure that you are approved for access. The application will display a notification if the quota has been met for the day. You will be able to try again another day by using the same application process the day before you want to enter.

Visitors participating in the DTW Destination Pass program can only meet passengers arriving on domestic flights or reconnecting on another flight. Ticketed passengers will be given first priority to board their flights. Those receiving the DTW Destination Pass may be asked to wait to enter the checkpoint. The issuance of passes may be suspended during peak travel times or under special circumstances. Passes are NOT guaranteed.

Each eligible adult may sponsor up to four additional family members or guests. Minors who are younger than the age of 18 must be accompanied by the sponsoring adult. Visitors who are 18 years of age or older who have a valid photographic identification must complete registration online and bring the same photographic identification that was used for registration.

  1. Apply for the pass — The day before you want to visit, complete the registration form between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Type in your full legal name (exactly as it appears on your passport or driver’s license), your date of birth, and complete any other required fields.
  2. Check your email — You will receive an email confirmation once you have registered. The morning of your planned visit, you will receive an email notifying you of your application status and providing detailed instructions. Please make sure you check your junk email.
  3. Come to the airport — Once approved, arrive at DTW and give yourself enough time to park, pick up your DTW Destination Pass, and submit to passenger screening. Bring the same photo ID (Passport or Driver’s License) that you used to register. Minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by the sponsoring adult.
  4. Pick up your DTW Destination Pass — Follow the instructions on your approval email to pick up your DTW Destination Pass at the McNamara Terminal. Report to the designated TSA passenger screening checkpoint with your approved DTW Destination Pass and identification.
  5. Tell Us what you think — Watch your email for a link to an online survey.

We recommend that you depart the terminal by 10 p.m. as airport services are limited after that time.

Flint Bishop International Airport

The Flint Visitor Pass program is permanently in place to allow visitors access to the secure side of the airport between the hours of 8:00 in the morning and 6:00 in the evening Eastern Time Monday through Friday. Participants are limited to only one visit per month. The last Flint Visitor Pass will be issued at 5:30 in the afternoon.

The FNT Visitor Pass Program is available on airside, beyond security during flights times.

  1. Apply for the pass The day before you want to visit, complete the registration form. Type in your full legal name (exactly as it appears on your passport or U.S. driver’s license), your date of birth, and complete any other required fields.
  2. Check your email — You will receive an email confirmation once you have registered (online). The morning of your planned visit, you will receive an email notifying you of your application status and providing detailed instructions. Please make sure you check your junk email.
  3. Come to the airport — Once approved, arrive at Flint Bishop Airport and give yourself enough time to park, pick up your FNT Visitor Pass, and submit to passenger screening. Bring the same photo ID (Passport or Driver’s License) that you used to register. Minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by the sponsoring adult.
  4. Pick up your FNT Visitor Pass — Follow the instructions on your approval email to pick up your FNT Visitor Pass at the Airport Police Office. Report to the TSA passenger screening checkpoint with your approved FNT Visitor Pass and identification.

Individuals needing a Pass to access the secure side with traveling children, elderly or any individual needing wheelchair assistance, active military leaving for or arriving from deployment, must obtain a pass from the airline.

New Orleans International Airport

The MSY Guest Pass program is permanently in place to allow visitors access to the secure side of the airport between the hours of 11:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening Central Time seven days per week. Participants are limited to only one visit per month. The last MSY Guest Pass will be issued at 7:30 in the evening.

Limit: 50 visitors per day Monday through Friday; and 100 visitors per day Saturday and Sunday.

Anyone 13 years or older will need a Guest Pass. All individuals 12 years and under will not need a Guest Pass if accompanied by an adult with a Guest Pass.

Participants must provide their full name as it appears on their ID (Government Issued Photo ID), their date of birth, gender and contact information.

All participants must be pre-registered and “walk-ups” are not permitted.

On the day of your reservation, report to the Customer Service Desk on Level 1 of the Main Terminal between Doors 2 and 3.

Customer Service Staff will inspect your ID and validate that they have pre-registered.

After check-in, participants will then proceed to the TSA Checkpoint on Level 2 for screening.

Pittsburgh International Airport

This program has been temporarily suspended.

The myPITpass program is permanently in place to allow visitors access to the secure side of the airport between the hours of 9:00 in the morning and 5:00 in the evening Eastern Time seven days per week. Participants are limited to only one visit per month. The last myPITpass will be issued at 4:30 p.m.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

The SEA Visitor Pass program is permanently in place to allow visitors access to the secure side of the airport between the hours of 8:00 in the morning and 9:00 in the evening Pacific Time seven days per week. The last EA Visitor Pass will be issued at 9:00 in the evening.

Limit: 100 visitors per day. Passes are granted on a first-come, first-served basis. You can see a countdown of the number of passes remaining on the application page. If you cannot select a date on the online form, that means the visitor slots are full for that day.

  1. Apply Online — You can apply the day of your visit or up to seven days in advance. Check that your information is accurate and provide your full legal name (exactly as it appears on your passport or driver’s license), date of birth, and your sex. You’ll receive a confirmation email verifying that your request has been received!
  2. Get Approval — Your application will be reviewed and approved by the Transportation Security Administration. If you are applying:
    • In advance: You will receive an e-mail message with your approval status after midnight on the day of your visit.
    • For same day entrance: You will receive an e-mail message with your approval status within 15 minutes.
  3. Show off your SEA Visitor Pass — If approved for entry, you’ll receive an email with a QR code to scan upon entry at TSA Checkpoint 3. Make sure you have it on hand (either print or digital) along with your TSA-approved ID when you go for screening, make sure to tell the TSA Officer that you have a SEA Visitor Pass.  Each person using SEA Visitor Pass must display their individual QR code and ID at security, those without the approval email will be denied entry.

SEA recommends that you depart by 10:00 p.m.

Tampa International Airport

This program has been temporarily suspended.

The TPA All Access program is permanently in place to allow visitors access to the secure side of the airport between the hours of 8:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening Eastern Time seven days per week. The last TPA All Access pass will be issued at 7:30 p.m.

Final Boarding Call

I have long stated that I believe that a number of security measures which were implemented at airports across the country after the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 occurred are superfluous at best and give the arguably false impression that airports are much safer than before that infamous day.

Programs such as the aforementioned ones allow airports to be more accessible. Although I am all for programs of this type — which would allow merchants at businesses within the airport to potentially increase profits while people can spend more time with loved ones at the gate or elsewhere in the secure areas of the airport — problems can possibly occur: on certain days such as holidays, where do people who are not traveling on that day park their vehicles when parking facilities are already full with no empty parking spaces; and will the airports themselves become significantly more crowded? Could shops, lounges, gates, and airports in general become significantly more crowded if visitors are allowed to access secure areas of the airport?

Regardless, I am glad to see these programs being introduced — even if only at six airport, with two temporarily closed — and I hope that they will be considered at additional airports across the United States.

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

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