Should CVG let non-passengers follow friends, family to the gate?

CINCINNATI -- One of the most immediate changes the Sept. 11 attacks brought to American life was a nationwide tightening of airport security. Before, the classic romantic comedy trope of following your true love to the tarmac for a dramatic declaration was imminently possible -- non-travelers could accompany friends, family members and loved ones right up to the gate to see them off.

"I remember being able to go up to the gate (at CVG) to greet my dad coming back from a business trip," Anjali Alm-Basu, who was accompanying her mother as she prepared for a flight to Sweden, said Monday.

After, the newly founded Transportation Security Administration created a nationally standardized system of passenger and luggage checks meant to prevent further hijackings and other aerial attacks.

On Sept. 5, nearly 16 years after those attacks, Pittsburgh International Airport will once again open its shops, restaurants and gates to non-flyers. This time, however, they need a special pass verified by a valid ID and a check against the No Fly List -- and they're not exempt from the security checks that their traveling counterparts need to pass.

Pittsburgh airport officials said they hoped the program would allow passengers and non-passengers to enjoy airport experiences together.

"Since I started here, people have been asking about being able to escort loved ones to the gate or being able to shop and dine at the airport," Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said in a statement. "We have worked closely with the TSA on this program."

Don Franklin, a Cincinnati resident on his way to Denver, said he worried the addition of friends and family members to already-lengthy security lines would make the experience of flying even more of a waiting game.

"An airport is place where people come in, go out," he said. "I just think if you had people coming in to shop and browse around, I think it would make the lines a lot longer."

Lew Wade, who was visiting Cincinnati from California, didn't think that reasoning was enough of a downside.

"What's a line? My goodness. We live this day in lines," he said. "Look at Starbucks!"

Officials at Cincinnati Northern-Kentucky International Airport did not respond to a request for comment about whether they would consider a similar program, but Pia Alm-Basu, Anjali's mother, said she would appreciate it.

"If there are not any major security concerns, I don't see why not," she said.

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