Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Now 3 airports offer gate passes to non-ticketed passengers

Another airport invites non-ticketed passengers to hang and visit

You can do it a Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and you can do it at Tampa International Airport (TPA)

Now Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) will let you do it too.

Detroit Metro Airport now allows non-ticketed passengers to spend time on the post-security side of both the McNamara and North terminals.

The “DTW Destination Pass” program allows non-flying ing guests to come to the airport to shop, eat, check out the art, planes pot, people watch, escort a friend or family to their gate or be there when a loved deplanes. 

“The new regulations allow us to expand our gate pass program that already exists for our Westin hotel guests,” said Wayne County Airport Authority CEO Chad Newton in a statement, “Now we can welcome more community members into our home to create memorable moments—from watching planes to greeting family and friends.”

DTW’s Destination Pass program isn’t permanent (yet) but is being piloted through the holidays with an end date of January 5, 2020.

Here’s how it works:

From Tuesday through Sunday, up to 75 non-ticketed passengers will be able to enter the secure side of both DTW terminals from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Visitors will need to apply for a pass through the DTW website the day before their planned visit. Applicants will get an email notification letting them know if the application has been approved. If approved, detailed instructions will be sent electronically.  

Pass holders will need to go through the same security screening as all other passengers going through the security checkpoints. During peak checkpoint times, passengers heading to flights will get priority over pass holders at the checkpoints.  

After their visit, pass holders will be asked to fill out a survey.

When the pilot program is done, “Wayne County Airport Authority will be evaluating the use of the program, along with the airport’s cost to provide this service. We will also be reviewing the completed participant surveys,” said airport spokeswoman Lisa Gass.

Other airports invite non-ticketed visitors as well

While DTW’s Destination Pass is being piloted, the gate-pass programs at Pittsburgh International Airport and Tampa International Airport are permanent.

Pittsburgh International Airport kicked off the trend with the “myPIT Pass” program in August 2017. The program operates Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Non-ticketed passengers may apply for a pass by showing a U.S. government-issued photo ID at a special counter in the terminal.

Tampa International Airport (TPA) introduced its TPA All Access Pass in April 2019. TPA’s pass allows non-ticketed guests who apply at least 24 hours in advance to visit one of four airside areas of the airport each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is a limit of 25 people per airside.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) tested a gate-pass program for a few weeks during the 2018 holiday season and had 1,1650 people take advantage of the program. The decision to bring back the program on a temporary or permanent basis is still under review.

According to Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Lorie Dankers, before any airport can offer a gate-pass program to non-ticketed fliers, the airport must submit a formal proposal to the TSA to amend the local airport security plan. If TSA approves the plan, an airport is permitted to invite non-ticketed passengers past security.

So perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of a trend.

(My story about airport gate passes first appeared on USA TODAY in a slightly differing form.)

Dude, where’s my ride? Airports move Uber/Lyft away from curbside

At many airports, curbside pick-up is moving away from the curb.

On October 29, Los Angeles International joins the growing list of airports where curbside traffic has gotten so bad that taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber to Lyft are no longer permitted to pick up at passengers at the curb.

“We have heard from our guests that the current system with ride pickups can be frustrating.” “said Keith Wilschetz, Deputy Executive Director for Operations and Emergency Management at Los Angeles World Airports, said in a statement

“Frustrating” is a polite way of describing how excruciating and time-consuming using a ride-app at LAX can be.

During peak times, app users now often spend upwards of 45 minutes to an hour between waiting for their ride to arrive curbside and sitting in traffic to get out of the Central Terminal Area.

“That’s if the drive doesn’t cancel on you,” said LAX spokesman Heath Montgomery.

At LAX, bad curbside traffic is about to get worse as the airport construction associated with terminal redevelopment and the new automated people mover begins.

“We will be losing more than 30% of our curb front, so doing nothing is not an option,” said Montgomery.

The solution at LAX is to move the pick-up area for both taxi and ride app users away from the terminal curbsides entirely to a new area, dubbed “LAX-it,” just east of Terminal 1.

Passengers will be able to walk to the new pick-up area from some of the terminals and a shuttle will pick-up passengers at all terminals in a dedicated lane on the lower/arrivals level lane.

LAX officials say getting from the airport to the pick-up lot should be no more than 15 minutes (from most terminals) and exiting the terminal should be faster because drivers no longer must battle backups in the Central Terminal Area.

Once it rolls out on October 29, the LAX-it system will no doubt need some tweaks.

For now, some passengers are worried the new system will be confusing and pick-up time will be no shorter than it is now. In a statement, Lyft said it looks forward to working with LAX on providing “the best possible pick-up and drop-off experience for all users,” but Uber outlined its long list of concerns with the plan in a letter to airport officials.

How do other airports tackle curbside congestion?  

Back in 2016, Seattle Tacoma International Airport worked with ride-app providers to move pick-ups inside the airport parking garage, adjacent to space set already aside for other commercial ground transportation operators.

“We have since made traffic flow process improvements,” said SEA spokeswoman Kate Hudson, “We’re lucky in Washington state that cars must have front and near license plates as it allows passengers to locate their vehicle from both angles.”

The Port of Seattle staffs the ride-app pick-up area and contracts for additional ambassadors during peak times. 

With a goal of diverting at least 45% of ride-hailing pick-up activity away from the terminal roadways, in summer 2018 San Francisco International Airport relocated pickups for Uber Pool, Express Pool and Lyft’s shared categories to the Domestic Parking Garage. And in March 2019, Uber X and Lyft offered their customers the option to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage at $3 less than the curbside rate.

“To date, these measures have only shifted about 21% of [ride-hailed] pickup activity off the terminal roadways, falling short of the 45% diversion rate,” said SFO spokesman Doug Yakel, so as of June 5, 2019 SFO relocated all domestic terminal pickups for ride-apps, including Uber, Lyft, and Wingz, from the curbside to the 5th floor of the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

In mid-November 2018, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) moved the pick-up area for all taxis and ride-app companies to the ground level of the airport’s Rental Car Facility.

“In the new space, dedicated taxi lanes are to the immediate left, while three ride share pick-up lanes are on the right,” said AUS spokesman Bryce Dubee, “The three ride share lanes are color-coded in blue, red and yellow with corresponding numbers 1-4 so that both passengers and drivers have a specific spot to meet up.”

The overall walking distance is about 750 feet, so before the switch was made the airport purchase four ADA-compliant 12-passenger electric shuttles to provide transport between lower-level locations and also leased an electric autonomous vehicle to transport passengers on the upper level of the garage.

Looking ahead, at the end of this month, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) will move both pick-ups and drop-offs for app ride passengers to new dedicated curb areas.

The new areas – conveniently located in the Central Parking – will be protected from the weather, brightly lit, and connected to all terminals via moving walkways,” said BOS spokeswoman Samantha Decker. “The new areas will also provide all the services passengers expect, including luggage carts, wheelchair services, and bag check service.”

(My story about airports relocating pick-up spots for Uber, Lyft, Wingz and taxis first appeared on USA TODAY)

Singapore Airlines now flies non stop to Singapore from Seattle

On Tuesday, Singapore Airlines (a codeshare partner of Alaska Airlines) celebrated the inaugural non-stop flight between Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN) with a lion dance and ribbon cutting at the gate and a water canon salute.

Seattle now becomes the fourth U.S. city to boast non-stop service to Singapore, joining Los Angeles, Newark and San Francisco.

During September, the flight will between Seattle and Singapore three times a week and expand to four flights a week in October.

The new SEA – SIN Singapore Airlines flight is the first-ever nonstop flight from SEA Airport to Southeast Asia. And, at 15-hours and 50-minutes, it is now also the longest longest nonstop flight from SEA airport.

The new flight is also the inspiration for a cool music video.

Singapore Airlines commissioned Seattle-based producer and musician Chong the Nomad to use an A350-900 aircraft – the same type being used for the SIA-SIN flight – as her musical instrument.

It is already a big hit!

Fresh airport eateries in Las Vegas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle and Charlotte airports

More reasons to go the airport hungry.

Pret a Manager landing at U.S. Airports

Several U.S. airports will soon have branches of U.K.-based grab-n-go coffee and sandwich chain Pret a Manger. The cahin is known for its freshly prepared foods and organic coffee.

There are currently “Pret” shops in Chicago and a few other east coast cities, but at the end of May, a Pret opened in Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport in the Terminal 3, E Gates.

In June, a Pret will open at Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. In July a Pret will pop up at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

New places to eat at Detroit Metro Airport

There are some new restaurants in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport’s (DTW) North Terminal. 

The restaurants include: 

Cantoro Italian Market Trattoria, a local, family owned and operated Italian market crossed with a modern corner store; 

Air Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett’s airport restaurant with a local twist;

Detroit Street Café featuring Zingerman’s Coffee;

And Atwater Brewery, a Detroit favorite, that debuted downtown in 1997 with the mission to bring German brew-styles to the area.

DTW says these restaurants are the first of a phased dining redevelopment project to open. Cantoro Italian Market Trattoria opened on April 18 and is located pre-security in baggage claim. Atwater Brewery opened on June 1 and Air Margaritaville & Detroit Street Café featuring Zingerman’s Coffee opened on June 5.

Skillet sizzles at SEA-TAC Airport

Whether or not your flight is taking off from the North Satellite at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, you might want to make your way out there to have a meal at Skillet.

Born in a food-truck and a favorite in several Seattle neighborhoods, Skillet has brought many of its menu favorites to SEA airport. The entrees include brunch favorites such as Fried Chicken & Waffle, homemade Doughnut Holes and the gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly Chilaquiles.

I guess I’ll have to forgive them for closing the Skillet in my neighborhood…

Celebrating route launches to London, Paris, Hong Kong and other cool places

Airports and airlines around the country hosted celebrations on Sunday for the launch of several new routes.

Dallas-Fort Worth International celebrated the inaugural Air France flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

The flight will operate up to five time a week on the Airbus A330 aircraft.

At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the party was to welcome American Airlines’ first nonstop flight to Phoenix from London.

In Washington State, United Airlines began flying daily nonstops between Paine Field (PAE) in Everett and both San Francisco and Denver.

And on Sunday, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) celebrated two new routes.

Japan Airline (JAL) started flying from SEA to Tokyo’s Narita Airport and Cathay Pacific began flying between SEA and Hong Kong.

The festivities for Cathay’s Pacific flight included a Lion Dance, a special cake and the ceremonial cutting of a roast pig, which is a symbol of good luck and prosperity.