Seattle–Tacoma International Airport Now Open to Public Access With Pilot Program

Seattle–Tacoma International Airport — in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration — now allows the public to access shops and restaurants beyond the security checkpoint of the terminal without requiring the purchase of an airline ticket from Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8:00 in the morning through 9:00 in the evening with the new SEA Visitor Pass.

Seattle–Tacoma International Airport Now Open to Public Access With Pilot Program

The policy change is temporarily and expected to only be available through Friday, December 14, 2018, as it is a pilot program to gauge its success and study the feasibility of bringing back the days of when you could meet with someone at the gate before or after a flight; catch up with a friend or loved one over a meal while he or she is at the airport on a layover between flights; or bring your family to watch the arrivals and departures of different types of airplanes.

Once approved by the Transportation Security Administration, only 50 visitors per day are permitted to take advantage of access to the secure parts of the airport which otherwise have only been open to passengers, members of flight crews, employees of the airport and its concessions, and other essential personnel for the past 17 years — which was the last time visitors were permitted past the security checkpoint without travel plans or having purchased an airplane ticket.

SEA Visitor Pass cannot be used with either the Clear or TSA Pre✓ programs; and users of the pass are subject to the same security regulations as ticketed passengers — including pertaining to items they can bring with them. Minor children are eligible to participate in the SEA Visitor Pass program. To maintain airport security, Transportation Security Administration regulations prohibit airport personnel from verifying the entrance of visitors greater than 24 hours in advance.

To apply for enrollment in this pilot program and be one of those 50 visitors, you must:

  1. Apply prior to 1:30 in the afternoon on the day before you want to visit the secure area of the airport by completing the request form, as enrollment is available Mondays through Fridays between 7:30 in the morning through 1:30 in the afternoon — and if the form is not available, that means that the signup time has passed or the daily quota has been met.
  2. Check your e-mail account by midnight the day you submitted your request form to see if you received a message stating that you are approved for access with more specific details on where to go. Do not head to the airport until you have been officially verified with approval status.
  3. On the day you are approved, bring the same photographic identification which you used for registration to the airport. Post-security access is allowed between the hours of from 8:00 in the morning through 10:00 in the evening.
  4. Pick up your SEA Visitor Pass after 8:00 in the morning. You will receive an e-mail message with directions on where to go.
  5. Go through the security checkpoint — but especially during peak travel times, ensure that you arrive two hours before you want to be on the secure side of the terminal. If you are meeting a flight or a traveler, allow enough time to pick up your SEA Visitor Pass and pass through the security checkpoint.
  6. Eat, drink, shop, and visit at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport.
  7. Meet travelers at their gate once they arrive — but that applies only to domestic arrivals.
  8. Complete a survey that you will receive via e-mail message to help personnel of the Port of Seattle to evaluate this pilot program.

What You Can Now Do With SEA Visitor Pass

You can now enter the part of the airport terminal on the other side of the security checkpoint — even if you are not traveling that day. Clear the security checkpoint and take advantage of the events, amenities, restaurants, and boutiques at the airport.

For example, you could:

Pittsburgh International Airport Opened to Public Access

Pittsburgh International Airport became the first airport in the United States to allow the public to access shops and restaurants beyond the security checkpoint without requiring an airline ticket all year round as of Tuesday, September 5, 2017 through the myPITpass program.


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 ones in Seattle and Pittsburgh 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?

Regardless, I am glad to see this program being tested at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport; and I hope that it will be considered at additional airports across the United States.

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

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