ABIA considers letting visitors past security without a boarding pass

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport could become more than just a place to fly in or out of Austin. Airport officials are considering opening the terminals up to anyone who wants to eat, drink, shop or enjoy live music past security.

ABIA was just named the second best airport in the world by Fodor’s Travel. Airport officials say that’s something to share with everyone.

“It is a unique airport,” said ABIA spokesman Bryce Dubee. “We’ve got 25 live music shows a week, all sorts of great, local food, an amazing variety of local art that’s always rotating through, and we want folks in the community who maybe are not flying as often as other folks or maybe flying once a year, maybe not at all, still come in and see what Austin-Bergstrom has to offer.”

Some people can see the perks.

“I think it would be a good idea in some aspects,” said Samantha Garcia, who lives in Austin. “Especially when you have Hut’s closing, and now we only have the Hut’s here.”

Others, however, don’t love the idea.

“It does cost money to maintain the security lines,” said Austin resident Ali Mohandesi. “So, in a lot of ways, it just seems like it’s too much money spent to check people before they sit at a restaurant.”

A couple of other airports are already implementing similar programs.

Tampa’s All Access program lets people make a reservation to go through security to eat and shop on Saturdays. Only 25 people without boarding passes are allowed in the terminal at any given time.

In Pittsburgh, people can show up and show their license to receive a myPITTpass Monday through Friday. Those with the pass go through an “alternative security checkpoint”.

At both airports, visitors have to meet the same TSA standards as travelers.

ABIA is still working out the details of how its own program would work.

“At the end of the day, security is always going to be our top priority,” Dubee said. “We want to make sure that the travelers who are trying to catch a flight aren’t going to be hit with any delays or anything like that, so the plan is not to do anything during any peak travel times. It wouldn’t be coming in earlier in the morning when we do have some of the longer lines for our early flights or anything like that.”

Dubee says the idea is very preliminary. If it’s approved, it wouldn’t begin until some time after the airport’s nine-gate expansion is finished. The new gates are expected to open toward the end of this year.

A TSA spokeswoman said ABIA had not proposed the idea to the TSA yet, so she said it was too early to comment on the potential program.

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