Pittsburgh International Airport

Reassurance from a robot at Pittsburgh Int’l Airport

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, airlines are grounding aircraft and cutting flight schedules. And fewer and fewer travelers are passing through airports.

But in most cities airports are considered essential facilities. So they remain open.

One example: Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), which must stay open not only for the remaining commercial flights currently flying, but because it is home to two military bases: U.S. Air Force and Pennsylvania National Guard.

Anyone passing through PIT airport right now will find it quieter than usual.

But they might notice something different in the art installation known as “Fraley’s Robot Repair.”

Toby Fraley/Blue Sky PIT

Atticus Fraley created this storefront robot repair shop and sometimes makes changes to the items inside.

His most recent addition was to give a robot a hand-lettered sign with an inspirational message for this stressful time:

It says: “Dear Humans, you CAN do this – Robot.”

Let’s hope so!

Nellie Bly landing soon at Pittsburgh Int’l Airport

Nellie Bly – Courtesy Library of Congress

We take a short break from coronavirus coverage and anxiety today to give a cheer for Pittsburgh International Airport, which is celebrating Women’s History Month by putting a statue of legendary traveler and early investigative journalist Nellie Bly in the terminal.

Bly, the pen name for Elizabeth Seaman Cochran, grew up in Western Pennsylvania and in 1885 went to work for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, which is now the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She moved to New York City in 1887 to work for the New York World and wrote a groundbreaking expose of the terrible conditions at a mental institution by posing as a patient.

In 1889 she set off for a trip about the world, determined to break the fictional record of Phileas Fogg, whose journey was described by Jules Verne in his 1873 novel, “Around the World in Eighty Days.”

Bly left Hoboken, New Jersey by ship and completed the trip in 72 days, 6 hours 11 minutes and 14 seconds, traveling by horse, rickshaw, sampan, burro and other vehicles along the way.

Courtesy University of Iowa Libraries

“Round the World” board game. Courtesy University of Iowa Libraries.

Her 1890 book chronicling the adventure is “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.”

Pittsburgh International Airport already has two statues in the terminal: George Washington and Franco Harris, a legendary Pittsburgh Steelers player.

Those statues are stationed in the PIT terminal as promotions for the city’s Heinz History Center and are popular spots for selfies.

At the end of March, to mark Women’s History Month and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Heinz History Center will add Nellie Bly’s statue to the PIT terminal.

Courtesy PIT Airport. Photo by Beth Hollerich

Detroit Metro Airport gate pass program permanent

Courtesy Detroit Metro Airport

Gate pass programs expanding

The pilot DTW Destination Pass program at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) which allows non-ticketed passengers past the security checkpoint began in October and was supposed to end this week.

But so many non-ticketed visitors are interested in visiting DTW airport to shop, dine, check out airplanes and spend more time with friends and family starting or ending their travels that airport officials have decided to keep the program going indefinitely.

“We understand that our facility is more than just an airport—it is a place where memories are made,” said WCAA CEO Chad Newton, “One participant of the program shared with us that she was able to bring her 3-year-old nephew to the airport to greet his parents and see airplanes for the first time.”

The DTW Destination Pass program is limited to 75 visitor passes per day. Passes can be used from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Check the DTW website for details about applying for a pass.

Where else can you get an airport gate pass?

DTW is just the latest airport to welcome non-ticketed passengers past the security checkpoint.

Art at SEA airport

In December, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) brought back and made permanent the SEA Visitor Pass program, which gives non-ticketed guests access to the secure side of the airport.

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) started the trend by introducing the myPITPass program in August 2017. That program operates Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tampa International Airport (TPA) began offering its All Access pass in April, 2019, welcoming guests on Saturdays.

Photo La Gourmetreise, Courtesy New Orleans & Company

And Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) began welcoming non-ticketed guests into the new terminal on December 4.

The MSY Guest Pass is offered seven days a week, with a limit of 50 visitors Monday through Friday and 100 visitors on Saturdays and Sundays.

Visit the New Orleans Airport without a ticket

Gate pass program at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

As promised, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is joining the list of airports that invite and allow non-ticketed guests airside, past security to shop, dine, listen to live music and spend more time with friends and family leaving for trips or coming home.

The free MSY Guest Pass program kicks off December 4 and will be available seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  MSY officials say the airport will issue no more than 50 passes on weekdays and no more than 100 passes each Saturday and Sunday.

Anyone seeking an MSY Guest Pass will need to sign up 24 hours in advance and provide their full name, date of birth and contact information. Visitors under 18 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Pass holders must still pass through the security checkpoint and all pass holders will be limited to one visit per month.

Leah’s Kitchen at MSY

MSY is justifiably proud of its shiny new terminal, which has branches of local shops such as Dirty Coast and Fleurty Girl and restaurants from award-winning chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, John Folse, Michael Gullotta, Susan Spicer, and the late Leah Chase and her family.

We expect more airports to join this trend, but for now just a few other airports offer gate passes to non-ticketed guests: Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has the MyPITpass program and Tampa International Airport (TPA) offers an All Access gate pass program.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is testing a gate pass program now through January 5.

Have you applied for a gate pass at one of these airports? If so, tell us how it worked.

Airport news from Seattle, Denver & San Francisco

Good news for passengers during this busy travel season.

As the busy holiday travel season kicks into gear, we’ve gathered up some airport news that may make your journey as wee bit smoother.

Concert at Sea-Tac Airport

At noon on Friday, November 22, Washington State native soul and R&B singer Allen Stone, will perform a live show in Central Terminal featuring songs from his new album, Building Balance.

The performance will be live-streamed Sea-Tac Airport’s Facebook and will celebrate the expansion of the already robust live music program at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Skating at Denver Airport

Friday is also opening day for the ice-skating rink at Denver International Airport (DEN).

Located on the outdoor DEN plaza, between the main terminal and the Westin Hotel, the rink will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through January 20.

There’s no fee to skate. And there are free skate rentals as the on-side “Skate Shop” Airstream trailer near the ice rink.

The ice rink will feature music daily and host special activities and performances on the ice throughout the skating season including Colorado Avalanche Ice Patrol, Denver Figure Skating Club, E-Gals Ice Crew, curling lessons, little tykes’ hockey and more.

Holiday Open House at Pittsburgh Airport

Pittsburgh International Airport will its annual open house this year on Saturday, December 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Open to all who register, the in-terminal event features shopping and dining specials, live music, kids’ entertainment and visits with Santa.  Registration closes December 4.

Here’s a rundown of the entertainment:

  • Juggler: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. 
  • Balloon Artist: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
  • Touch-A-Truck: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
  • Face Painting: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 
  • Children’s Museum Activity: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. 
  • Lovebettie: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. 
  • Photos with Santa: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. 
  • Caricature Artist: 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 
  • Airbrush Tattoo Artist: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. 
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates Pierogies: 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. 

SFO Airport pilots premium Uber pick-up

To reduce congestion at curbsides, in June 2019 San Francisco International Airport (SFO) moved domestic terminal pickups for ride-hailing services Uber, Lyft and Wingz away from the terminal curbside to the 5th floor of the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage, with pickups in the International Terminal at the center island of the Departures level roadway.

Now, just in time for the holiday travel season, SFO has kicked off a two-month pilot program with Uber to offer a premium curbside pickup option for travelers.

Passengers who choose a premium Uber product, including Uber Comfort, Uber Select, and Uber XL, Uber Black and Uber Black SUV will be picked up curbside at designated locations in each Domestic Terminal: Terminal 1 at Door 9; Terminal 2 at Doors 5 and 6; Terminal 3 at Doors 12 and 13.

Pickups at the International Terminal will continue in the current location, which is at the center island of the Departure level roadway.

Passengers choosing (basic) UberX and Uber Pool in the Domestic Terminals must still go to the domestic hourly parking garage for pickup.