Austin airport to consider welcoming non-ticketed visitors

Published 4:23 pm Thursday, June 13, 2019

AUSTIN — Austin-Bergstrom International Airport officials are considering opening the airport’s terminals to non-ticketed visitors who want to access the facility’s food, beverage and retail offerings.

The Airport Advisory Commission on Tuesday mulled over the idea of welcoming non-ticketed visitors as long as they pass through security, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Bryce Dubee, an airport spokesman, said officials are in the early stages of evaluating the proposal and talking to stakeholders, including the Transportation Security Administration.

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“The safety and security of passengers is always our top priority,” Dubee said.

The airport is home to many iconic Austin restaurants and features weekly live music performances, according to Dubee.

Some supporters of the proposal want to see relatives to their departure gates. Meanwhile, opponents said they don’t view the airport as a place to relax or spend lengthy amounts of time.

Dubee said the airport wouldn’t make any changes until new concessions open as part of a $350 million expansion later this year. The project will open nine new gates, a terrace to watch airplanes, a mezzanine and restrooms for people and their pets.

Officials anticipate the expansion will allow the Austin airport to comfortably serve around 15 million passengers each year. A record of roughly 15.8 million passengers passed through the airport last year, according to city data.

Airports in Pittsburgh and Tampa, Florida, are pursuing similar plans to allow non-ticketed visitors into their terminals.

Mark Howell, a TSA spokesman covering Tampa International Airport, said the airport only allows non-flyers to visit on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The airport also limits the number of non-ticketed visitors to 25 per terminal. Everyone has to register ahead of time.

Howell said the main issues is ensuring TSA officials can manage security screenings efficiently and safely.

“Our focus is to keep the bad guys off of airplanes, and if you aren’t flying it’s just getting more people through the checkpoints,” he said.