Philadelphia has joined a small number of airports allowing flyers to be accompanied by non-flyers right through security, into terminals and at gates.
Linger over goodbyes
As witnessed in old films and TV shows, it used to be the case that non-ticket holders could pass through into post-security areas of airports, to meet their loved ones at the gate or linger over last goodbyes.
Coming in November 2023 to #PHLAirport! The PHL Wingmate Pass will welcome non-ticketed guests of passengers to share in unforgettable airport experiences. Learn more at https://t.co/qqqKPq2ivh. #wingmatepass pic.twitter.com/cHjJ5bRMTl— PHLAirport (@PHLAirport) October 5, 2023
Now, just in time for the festive season, that tradition is being reinstated in Philadelphia, with the advent of the oddly-named “PHL Wingmate Guest Pass”. While it might sound like it has something to do with prisons, hospitals or sanitary products, the Wingmate Guest Pass can be issued to anyone without a boarding pass who wishes to access the airport’s secure zones between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Time spent hanging out at the airport is something many people wish to minimise, but Philadelphia receives “many inquiries from friends and family members looking to escort a passenger to or from their gate,” said the airport’s marketing and branding director, Megan O’Connell.
The Wingmate Guest Pass will help loved ones spend more time with their family members take-off or create a memorable arrival experience.Megan O’Connell, Philadelphia Airport’s Marketing and Branding Director
Social media is full of videos of returning soldiers and long-missed travellers experiencing emotional or entertaining airport arrivals, but often family members and excited pets are obliged to set up banners, balloons and other surprises in areas some way from arrivals.
Now they will be able to be there up-close-and-personally as their loved one steps on or off the plane.
Application and restrictions
To apply for permission for a Wingmate Pass, an online form must be completed a maximum of seven days before the access is required. If approval is granted, a digital Wingmate Pass will arrive via email on the day of the visit. Same-day entrance applications will be responded to within 15 minutes, according to airport information.
There are some restrictions. Accelerated check-in processes such as TSA PreCheck cannot be used to apply for a Wingmate Pass. It’s also worth noting that anyone wishing to access the secure areas as a non-flyer will be permitted to bring only one small personal item with them, a limitation which may prevent paraphernalia-heavy welcome-homes.
While some other airports have allowed similar access, both Pittsburgh and Tampa International, have done a U-turn on the policy. Amid catastrophic airport capacity issues and the U.S.’s worldwide caution advisories, the access for non-flyers has been suspended indefinitely.