Reader Richard T. writes:
The incident where the guy snuck through security to see his girlfriend off on a flight got me thinking: Is there a legal way for a person to go through airport security without having a boarding pass? I’m happy to submit to all manner of screenings, wandings, pat-downs, etc.
Yes, actually, there are a couple.
1. Request a gate pass from the airline
Under certain circumstances, you can obtain a gate pass, essentially a permission slip issued by an airline, which allows you to pass through security and to the gates. (Of course, you’re subject to inspection, like everyone else.) Gate passes are typically issued to parents/guardians of a minor traveling alone, to a medical assistant, to an interpreter, or to someone designated as accompanying an elderly person, usually for health reasons. And under TSA Security Directive 1544-01-10w, family of military personnel may get passes to “sterile concourse areas to escort the military passenger to the gate or to meet a military passenger’s inbound arrival at the gate.” Gate passes are free, but are issued at the airline’s discretion. Just saying you’d like to meet your friends and family? Not good enough, typically, but take your best shot!
2. Buy a refundable ticket.
Buy a fully-refundable ticket — to anywhere. Somewhere cheap, somewhere expensive, it doesn’t matter. Buy it, then check in. Print your boarding pass. Walk through security, with a perfectly legal boarding pass. Wave goodbye (or hello) to your friends from the gate. Exit the secure area of the airport. Refund the ticket, by phone or at the counter. (Remember, it was fully refundable. FULLY. But do it before the flight leaves.) It’s an annoying step, but there’s nothing illegal about it.
Richard, you asked about the legal options. So I know you’re not interested in illegal methods, like printing your own forged boarding passes. Phony passes won’t work to get you onto a plane, but they might get you through the security checkpoint. They could also get you a visit from the FBI, since they violate the U.S. code, title 18, part 1, chapter 47, § 1036. Needless to say, NOT RECOMMENDED unless you want to go to jail. But it’s been done…
Any other techniques out there? Hit the comments!