Pittsburgh airport will allow non-flyers past security for first time since 9/11

Pittsburgh officials announced Monday they’ll become the first U.S. airport since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to allow non-flyers past security. Starting next week, members of the public who are not ticketed for a flight can gain access to facilities beyond the TSA checkpoint.

Officials have stressed the decision will not affect security at Pittsburgh International Airport. The public will be asked to show a valid ID in the ticketing area where visitors will be first screened, according to the Allegheny County Airport Authority. They then will be subject to the same security process as airline passengers.

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“Participants … should ensure they’re not carrying any prohibited items such as weapons before coming through the security checkpoint,” TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport, Karen Keys-Turner, said in a statement.

Visitors who appear on the no-fly list will not be allowed to go through the TSA checkpoint, Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis told Fox News.

“We do not believe that this poses any additional safety threats,” she said. "It’s like just having more airline passengers going through because they go through the same vetting process."

Cassotis said the idea is not new for the airport. She told Fox News the airport had a “Holiday Open House” program that allowed the public to go through airport security on a designated day over the last few years.

The TSA said in a statement that they did not need to hire additional employees for the program, and they do not anticipate checkpoint wait times to be affected.

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There are some concerns over what the addition of non-flyers might mean for the security lines, which already deal with high volumes during peak travel times.   

The airport’s first priority is to get passengers to their flights, Cassotis said. “If the line gets too long, we’re going to pull the non-ticketed passengers.”

Pittsburgh’s plan has some support in Congress. “I remember the era and the day when you would see someone off at the gate,” Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., told Fox News in a statement. "We have not been able to have that in the USA for well over a decade. That’s going to change in Pittsburgh.”

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Cassotis said this change is welcomed by those who use the airport. “Since I started here, people have been asking about being able to escort loved ones to the gate or being able to shop and dine at the airport.”

Fox News reached out to the TSA, and a representative said it’s too early to speculate whether similar programs will expand to other airports across the country.

Michelle Chavez is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Pittsburgh.