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Pittsburgh airport's gates, shops, restaurants to open to non-flyers

| Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, 11:00 a.m.

Pittsburgh International Airport next month will become the only airport in the country to allow visitors to access the airside terminal's shops, restaurants and gates without buying a plane ticket.

Officials say the program will boost revenue for the airport and give Western Pennsylvania residents who don't fly often the chance to experience the airport's improvements.

Under the program, which starts Sept. 5, visitors will be able to enter the airside terminal from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Those days and times were chosen because they are slow periods for the airport, Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said. The program could expand to include more hours and days.

There will be no reduction in security, Cassotis said.

“We're going to check you the way the airlines check you — if you're allowed to get on a plane, you're going to be allowed to go through our TSA checkpoint,” Cassotis said.

Pitt Pass holders will go through regular airport security, but if the lines get too long, flyers will be given priority, Cassotis said.

Officials have been working for years to earn TSA approval to allow nonflyers to have this access, Cassotis said.

The airport's popular holiday open house, which started in 2014, helped the airport win TSA approval, Cassotis said.

That event has attracted more than 3,000 visitors in the past three years.

“What a shame it was that we have this award-winning airport but you can't see it unless you have a ticket,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, whose district includes the airport. “It has been an unfortunate impairment between families and passengers.”

Murphy said the new program will allow people welcoming home loved ones to greet them right at the gate.

“We haven't been able to have that in the U.S. for over a decade. Now that's about to change here in Pittsburgh,” Murphy said.

The TSA has prohibited airports from allowing non-flyers in the airside terminal since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

As the airport has been increasing amenities, more residents from Western Pennsylvania have been asking for the ability to experience it without a plane ticket, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

“This is something we've heard from residents... throughout Western Pennsylvania who love this facility, who want to come to this facility and use this facility,” Fitzgerald said.

A program that started a decade ago allows overnight guests at the airport's Hyatt Regency Hotel to get passes to go to the airside terminal during their stays. Other airports have similar programs, said Bob Kerlik, airport spokesman, but none allows access for non-flyers outside of that.

The airport has several upscale shops, including ECCO Shoes, Lacoste, Johnston & Murphy, Brooks Brothers and Armani Jeans.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, or via Twitter @tclift.

Upgrades at Arnold Palmer

Spirit Airlines flights normally offered between Arnold Palmer Regional Airport and other destinations will be offered through Pittsburgh International Airport for about a week while the Unity airport's runway is shut down for an upgrade.

The runway at Arnold Palmer is slated to be out of service Sept. 12-20 while Derry Construction conducts milling and repaving and repairs cracks. Westmoreland Airport Authority Executive Director Gabe Monzo said favorable weather could speed up completion of the $2.5 million project.

Passengers pass through security at the Pittsburgh International Airport on May 24, 2016.
Nate Smallwood | Trib Total Media
Passengers pass through security at the Pittsburgh International Airport on May 24, 2016.
Travelers pass by a sign advertising the Airmall at the Pittsburgh International Airport, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Travelers pass by a sign advertising the Airmall at the Pittsburgh International Airport, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.
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