Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Travel Tidbits from airports and airlines

New amenities at CVG Airport

Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) will get new nonstop service to Memphis, TN on Allegiant, starting May 22.

CVG also boasts some new shops and amenities, including a Be Relax spa (at B16), The Scoreboard sports memorabilia shop (B10) and the Gaslight Market for travel necessities.

Walk this way at SEA

If all goes according to plan, on Thursday night workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) will hoist this 900-foot long aerial walkway into place 85 feet above an existing taxi lane to connect the South Terminal with the new International Arrivals Facility.

When completed, this will be the longest aerial walkway over an active taxiway in the United States.

Heading to the Super Bowl in Miami?

To meet passenger demand and help fans get to the big game, some airlines are putting larger aircraft into service on key routes and adding extra flights.

United Airlines will offer  29 additional nonstop flights to Miami from its seven U.S. hubs including Los Angeles, plus seven special point-to-point flights between Kansas City and Miami.

American Airlines announced extra flights to Miami (MIA) from Kansas City (MCI), San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC). American will also add larger aircraft — Boeing 777-200s — to Miami from its hubs in New York (JFK), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX) and Chicago (ORD).

Between January 30 and February 3, JetBlue will add more than a dozen flights between San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).

From January 30 to February 4, JetBlue is adding ten flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL).

On Friday, January 31 Southwest Airlines has five nonstop flights scheduled instead of the regular two from Kansas City (MCI) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL). The airline will add a bonus nonstop flight between San Jose, CA (SJC) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL) as well.

On Monday, February 3, Southwest will send five flights from FLL back to MCI and the bonus nonstop flight to San Jose from FLL.

Spirit Airlines and Delta Air Lines are adding extra flights to and from Miami as well.

And the Heinz Ketchup brand is offering to pay all but 57 cents of the $200 airline change fee for 300 Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers fans who bought tickets to Miami before their teams lost out.

My ‘staycation’ at SEA Airport

It’s not crazy to hang out at the airport if you’re not flying.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is my home base airport and I’m happy to spend extra time there before, and sometimes after, a flight.

SEA recently joined the list of airports offering visitor passes to non-flying visitors. And so I signed up to find out what it is like to spend a day at the airport just hanging out with no flight to catch.

Signing up was easy: SEA’s Visitor Pass page walks applicants through the process. And once I got my email notice of approval, I had no trouble using my pass, with my ID, to get through the airport checkpoint.

First on my agenda was taking a quick tour of some of my favorite works of art at SEA airport.

There’s art throughout the airport – even in some bathrooms. And SEA’s art collection includes work by noted local, regional and national artists including Trimpin, Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson and Robert Rauschenberg.

On travel days, there’s not much time to stop and appreciate the art. But the visitor pass gave me time to look around.

Detail from Trimpin”s “On Matter, Monkeys and the King” kinetic artwork

Detail from Robert Rauschenberg’s “Star Quarters”

After the art tour, I did some shopping. I didn’t have to worry about squeezing my purchases into my carry-on and that made it easier – maybe too easy – to make purchases.

Then it was time for lunch

Lots of fresh dining options are opening at SEA airport and it was nice to be able to look around and try someplace new.

Learning a new skill at the airport

SEA recently installed a Hands-Only CPR training kiosk in the Central Terminal. And so I used the final part of my visit to get trained in a skill that might someday help me save a life.

Randy Krause, the Fire Chief for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, was nice enough to come by and supervise my session. But the kiosk is designed as a do-it-yourself experience.

The machine gives instructions; users practice on a dummy torso, and the machine lets you know how you did.

I need some practice, and I need to be stronger. So next time I go to the airport I won’t be shy about trying it again.

Bottom line: applying for a SEA Visitor Pass and voluntarily spending much of a day hanging around the airport was a totally fun – and educational – way to spend a rainy day.

And SEA isn’t the only airport to offer this program. Pittsburgh International Airport, Tampa International Airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Airport now do it too.

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.

The North Pole or the airport? Continued.

Reindeers coming back to SEA airport

Reindeers and gate access

Airports around the country continue to go all out to entertain passengers this holiday season.

Reindeers will return to the light rail station at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on December 18 and 19.

And the SEA Visitor Pass program piloted last year will now be a permanent airport amenity. The program allows non-ticketed guests the opportunity to enter the secure side of the airport to enjoy shopping, dining, and other amenities.

The gate pass program also means non-ticketed flyers have extra time to spend with friends and family before their flight and to be there at the gate when a flight lands.

More details will be rolled out on Monday,  December 16, when the program officially resumes.

We’re happy to see that gate pass programs are now officially a trend at airports.

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) have gate pass programs at well.

Santa Paws, Teddy Bears and more

Elsewhere, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has some treats in store for holiday week travelers.

LAX has booked nine musical acts and groups, including the popular TSA Choir, to perform at various terminals and the LAX-it pick-up lot throughout December.

On Friday, Dec. 20, LAX employees will host an arts and crafts activity for kids at the Tom Bradley International Terminal Children’s Playground from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special guests will include “Santa PAWS” from the LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) Program therapy dogs.

And on December 25, Los Angeles Airport Police officers, spouses and family members will be in various locations at LAX handing out teddy bears, candy canes and tree ornaments to children.

Holiday decoration or what?

And here’s a holiday ‘decoration’ we spotted early Friday morning this week at the Geneva Airport in Switzerland.

Not sure if this character just had a really bad night or what…

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.)