Will non passengers ever get past airport security again?

I was reminded of this by another thread, but I’d been thinking about it previously.

Do you ever think we’ll return to the days where people were allowed to go to the gate to meet and see off passengers? Even with reduced security at the checkpoints then, it probably still created at least some hassle, so maybe doing so is just incompatible with the security (theater) the public demands these days. But then again, maybe there could be a separate checkpoint for those who have no ticket and/or luggage.


I can’t imagine we’ll ever lessen our level of security (theater) at the checkpoint, and I don’t know many people who’d be willing to risk getting strip-searched just to see somebody walk through a door. It would also add the requirement of another checkpoint at the gate as people were boarding to ensure that nobody handed his boarding pass off to a theoretically-not-a-passenger type of person.

Not going to happen. There’s no upside. If a passenger really needs an escort to the plane, one will be provided. Friends and family have to say good-bye at one door or another. Doubling or quintupling the workload of the security detail makes no sense.

Airports need to offer a “null ticket” type that allows people to pass through security but not board airplanes. They could call it a “visitor pass” or something, hell they could even charge $5 for it and people would still use it.

But even without one, you can still send people off at the gate through exploiting some loopholes. If you want to do it completely legally, buy a fully refundable flight to anywhere departing a few hours after your friend leaves, use the ticket to get into the secure area, then refund the ticket after your friend departs.

If you want to do it slightly less legally, simply print a bogus e-ticket for a flight you’re not actually on. The TSA booths have no way of evaluating the legitimacy of a ticket and most e-tickets these days are HTML pages where it’s trivial to alter the details with a little bit of fiddling in the Inspector view.

Both will get you through the TSA and into the secure area.

They should call it a “Gate Pass.” In fact, that’s what it was called a few years ago when I got one at Fort Lauderdale International. I was helping a friend travel to visit his family. He was very shy and hadn’t been on a plane in a long time. When I helped check him in at the front area, I did all the talking. The agent asked me if I wanted a gate pass so I could keep him company until he boarded.
It looked just like a boarding pass, but had the words Gate Pass printed on it.

Security accepted it without question.

SLIGHTLY less legally?

Folks, let’s please avoid discussing how to do things less-than-legally. The question in the OP certainly isn’t calling for that. Thanks.

Actually, most TSA podium systems now read the 2D barcode & check with the airline’s computers. You will not like what happens next with a fake one. That is a Federal crime with a non-trivial penalty.

Don’t they also do this for kids flying as an unaccompanied minor? I’m pretty sure that unless there’s passport control involved, the adult who brought the child to the airport has to get a gate pass and go through and wait with them until the plane departs.

I’ve gotten gate passes 4 times in the last 4-5 years as a non-passenger: 3 to help my wife with small kid/s and once to help a friend with limited mobility. All were at MSP, though I have friends and family who have gotten them at SEA, LAX, BOS, and a few others for the same circumstances.

If th OP is really asking “when will gate passes for non-assistive purposes become commonplace?” I think the answer is probably when hell freezes over…

It would cost more to secure each individual gate and the events driving the need for security are not going away any time soon.

So, no.

The last few times my husband flew without me, I was able to get a gate pass to assist him (he’s disabled), both when dropping him off and picking him up. Granted, it’s been a decade since he was able to travel, but I don’t imagine that has changed much, for family members of disabled people or minors traveling alone.

Here’s how you get a null ticket. Buy a ticket on an airline that offers a 24-hour cancellation policy. Go to airport. Go through security. Go to the gate agent and say, “oops, I’m a very important businessman and my plans just changed, can I get this refunded?” (Or just go online and refund it.) Done. Perfectly legal and cromulent.

TSA doesn’t give a shit about what you do once you get beyond the checkpoint. All they care about is that you have can show a valid boarding pass, ID, and your dick.

I’d like this, actually, but it’s not going to happen. On one side, the argument is “I wanna.” And I get that, but it’s not really much of an argument. On the other, the arguments are longer lines and/or the expense of expanding checkpoints, a decrease in security (whether real or perceived), and overcrowding in the gate areas (there are more passengers now than in 2000). And the people who need to be accompanied to the gate already can be, and the other 99.9% who are competent enough to find their way to a gate and get on the plane without help are at worst mildly inconvenienced by not being allowed to have company at the gate for an hour or so.

The premise (and responses claiming it’ll “never happen”) are completely off base. You can absolutely still do this.

On two recent trips where my wife was travelling with our two small children without me my father-in-law was able to see her off at the gate. You need a pass (non-boarding pass?) and ID, but you can get that at the check-in counter. He went through security with his pass and ID just like a normal passenger and helped her out until she boarded.

I assume it isn’t as simple as the old days, which may be why so many people don’t think its possible. And it isn’t obvious to me that its always allowed. I can imagine them saying no to a bunch of rowdy college students wanting to send off their able-bodied friend. But the claim that non-passengers cannot get through security is not true in the general sense. There are common situations where it is allowed.

I do have to admit, though, that not being able to see someone off (even if Driver8 is correct) has drastically simplified the process of seeing someone off…

  1. Drive to airport
  2. Offload departees & their luggage.
  3. Hug.
  4. Leave.

None of that pesky parking and finding your way to the airport and paying for parking.

Yeah, family members have done this a couple times, too. The secret is called “asking.” Just tell the gate attendant why you need to or want to go to the gate with the traveller. I don’t know that they always say “yes,” but nobody’s been turned down in my family that I know of, and in at least one case it wasn’t for a disability. They give you a special pass (and I think you have to turn it in again when you leave).

IIRC it took them like 10 years after 9/11 to implement scanning, and longer to match with the airlines

And when I’m lucky, they want to touch all three.

I realise this is specific to the USA even though it wasn’t stated as such, however, here in Australia anyone can go through security. The gates are secured by cabin crew checking your tickets electronically. So I suspect the status quo in the US doesn’t really have to be the way it is but once a certain procedure is put in place there is really no point changing it unless there is a compelling reason and “it would be nice for some people to see each other off at the gate” is not one.

When I visited my mother with my son, who was a toddler, by myself, in 2007, she told the TSAs she needed to assist someone, and they let her through. Now, my mother is exceptionally good at talking people into things, so it’s not surprising. It’s also not surprising they let people through who are assisting someone who is disabled; otherwise, the airports would need to have people sitting around, ready to step in if that need came up, when it might not.