An Airport Fully Embraces 'Terminal Tourism'

Detroit joins Pittsburgh, Seattle, New Orleans and Tampa in implementing visitor pass programs.

Detroit joins Pittsburgh, Seattle, New Orleans and Tampa in implementing visitor pass programs. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Non-ticketed visitors can accompany loved ones to their gates at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the latest to establish a pass program to allow non-passengers past security.

Non-ticketed visitors to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport can go through security to send off their loved ones or await their return inside the terminal under a program extended this week by the Wayne County Airport Authority.

The DTW Destination Pass program debuted in October as a pilot that was supposed to end this weekend. But the airport authority announced Friday that it had extended the program indefinitely after receiving a “tremendous response” to the trial run.

“We understand that our facility is more than just an airport—it is a place where memories are made,” Chad Newton, the authority’s CEO, said in a statement. “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. He loved it! It is a pleasure to offer everyone a chance to experience DTW and create memories that will last a lifetime.”

Visitors must apply a day ahead of their expected visit and, if approved, need to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, to collect their pass. Passes are available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, though ticketed passengers are given priority in security lines during peak departure times. Only 75 passes are issued each day, with an average of 60 applicants daily so far.

“The information we’ve received from participant surveys indicates that most approved applicants utilized the program to meet someone who was arriving at or departing from the airport,” Debra Sieg, the airport authority’s security chief, said in a statement. “However, some wanted to watch planes or visit one of our dining or retail options.”

Detroit is the latest airport to join a small but growing “terminal tourism” movement that allows non-ticketed visitors to advance beyond security, a rarity since airport security was beefed up in the wake of 9/11. Pittsburgh, Tampa, New Orleans and Seattle have similar programs. Details differ, but all require visitors to go through the same security screening as ticketed passengers.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: A State Restarts Its Electric Vehicle Rebates