Greeting travelers at the gate or hanging out with a loved one right up until it was time to board seems like a thing of the past, but some airports are working to bring the practice back.
Over the past several years, airports across the United States have introduced programs to allow non-travelers to pass through screening and spend time in the airport post-security — without a plane ticket — to accompany friends and family who are waiting for a flight, or be at the gate right as they get off the plane.
Of course, it comes with caveats: airport visitors must show ID, typically apply in advance, and go through the same Transportation Security Administration screening procedures as other ticketed passengers. Expedited programs like TSA PreCheck tend not to be honored.
Despite all that, the concept has risen in popularity. It started in 2017 when Pittsburgh International Airport became the first U.S. airport to welcome non-ticketed visitors post-security, however, that program has since been suspended.
Still, others have picked up the torch as recently as this week when Philadelphia’s airport became the latest to offer this kind of program by allowing non-travelers to apply for a guest pass to access its terminals starting Nov. 1. Before that, Orlando International Airport launched a similar visitor pass last month for its newest space, Terminal C.
These are major U.S. airports that allow non-travelers to enter the post-security terminal, and what to know before you go.
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
The PHL Wingmate Pass will launch Nov. 1, 2023, allowing non-ticketed guests to access the post-security areas. The program is free and will be available each day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visitors must apply online one to seven days before they want to visit and, if approved, will receive a digital Wingmate Pass via email.
Those that apply in advance will receive an email with their application status after 12 a.m. on the day they want to visit, while those who apply for same-day entrance will receive an email within 15 minutes with that status.
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Orlando’s Experience MCO Visitor Pass Program allows non-ticketed visitors to enter the airport’s newest terminal, Terminal C. To apply, visitors must fill out an online form up to seven days in advance. Approved applicants will receive an email with their approval status after midnight on the day of their planned visit.
Visitors must present the pass digitally and printed passes won’t be accepted. Pass holders must exit the terminal by 8 p.m.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
The SEA Visitor Pass has been around since 2018, but is limited to 300 visitors a day. Airport guests can either apply online the day of their visit or up to seven days in advance, and will receive an email with a QR code to scan upon entry at the TSA checkpoint.
The airport recommends visitors leave by 10 p.m.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
The MSY Guest Pass is open each day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but there is a limit of 50 visitors on Monday through Friday and 100 visitors on Saturdays and Sundays. Visitors are limited to one visit per month. Program participants must apply online no less than 24 hours in advance.
Visitors 12 and under do not need a guest pass if they are accompanied by an adult with a guest pass.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
Detroit’s DTW Destination Pass is available at both the McNamara and Evans terminals. Visitors can apply at one of the kiosks on the Departures Level by scanning a U.S. government-issued photo ID and then use the pass on the same day. The program is open each day from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
John Wayne Airport (SNA)
This Orange County, California airport’s OC AirPASS is available for non-ticketed visitors each day until 11 p.m. Applicants will be verified through an online security system, which is usually completed within minutes. Applicants must check in at the information booth in Terminal A, B, or C from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a valid government-issued ID.
Tulsa International Airport (TUL)
Non-travelers can apply online for the TUL Visitor Pass Program up to seven days in advance of wanting to visit. Applicants must select a specific time attached to their pass. Minors must complete their own registration and application for a visitor’s pass.
Visitors may exit and re-enter the terminal at any time during program operating hours on their registered day.