Do I Need A Ticket To Enter The Airport?

Do I need a ticket to enter the airport

Last Updated on Aug 24th, 2023 by Renu Dahiya, Leave a Comment

Wondering ‘can I go through security without a ticket/boarding pass or do I need a ticket to enter the airport’? You’ve landed at the right place. Here, we will dive into whether you need a ticket to hang out at the airport or not, or why you cannot go through security without a boarding pass. We will also tell you in what situations some passengers can pass the airport security including the TSA even without a boarding pass. So, skim through this handy guide to know everything. 

Can You enter An Terminal Without A Ticket?

No, you cannot cross the airport security and hang out in the airport terminal without a valid ticket or a gate pass. Even if you want to drop off an unaccompanied minor or a person with a disability, you still need an escort pass from the airline. 

But before the Covid-19 pandemic, you could usually go inside the airport’s main terminal and get to the check-in desks/luggage drop-off desks. It means that the non-passengers were allowed to accompany someone inside the airport, help them check in their bags, and leave just before they go through security. Some people also liked to purchase their airline tickets on the spot, which explains why airports let regular people enter the airport. 

But after Covid-19, situations have changed. Now, most airports don’t let anyone inside an airport without a valid airline ticket to limit the number of people indoors. There is an additional checkpoint at the front entrance of the airport. So, if you want to buy a ticket on the spot, you’ll just have to use your phone. 

Can You Go Through Airport Security Without A Ticket Or Boarding Pass?

Long ago, most airports allowed non-passengers to go through the security checkpoint without any issues. But, nowadays (after 9/11), you cannot go through airport security and circulate in the airport terminals without a valid ticket or a boarding pass due to terror threats and security concerns. However, there are exceptions when non-passengers can pass airport security without a boarding pass. But, you will still need an escort or gate pass in these exceptional cases. We have explained these cases below. 

When Can You Go Through Security Without A Boarding Pass Or A Ticket? 

In some cases, you’ll be allowed to pass through the security checkpoint and go to the gate without a boarding pass or an airline ticket, but you will not be able to board the aeroplane. But, to pass the security, you’ll still have to follow all the security restrictions just like a regular passenger would like the liquids can only be in bottles up to 3.4 oz (100 ml), avoid taking sharp or dangerous items in your bag or pockets, and so on. Let’s take a look at these exception cases – 

  • Accompanying minors and children – If you want to accompany a child or a minor to the gate, you can apply for an escort pass. But, you will need to apply for the same a few days before the flight because sometimes the airlines want more information, and they even may require a phone call and talk with one of the airline’s representatives. 
  • Families of US Military Service Members – If you have a US Military Service family member and want to accompany or meet him at the airport gate, you can apply for a free Gate Pass. The TSA normally allows handing our gate passes to Military Service family members. But, the procedures for applying the same are different for each airline and airport. 
  • Accompanying the elderly or people with special needs – You can apply for a gate pass if you want to accompany the elderly or people with special needs. This usually should be done several days before the departure by calling the airport’s representatives or emailing them. You can also find the gate pass application forms on the official website of the airport. 
  • Some Airports that let you go through the security checkpoint without a boarding pass – There are some airports that offer visitor pass programs that allow a limited number of visitors to go through the security checkpoint and navigate the airport freely, enjoy meals, and shop without any instructions.  

Note – In the first three cases, sometimes you might be denied to pass through the security checkpoint. It is because sometimes the airline staff will take care of the person you are accompanying and they will assign one of their employees to accompany them. 

Airports That Allow You To Go Through The Security Checkpoint Without A Ticket Or Boarding Pass

Some of the airports in the USA want to generate some economic growth and boost their revenue, thus they have introduced ‘Visitor Pass’ programs in the last few years which allow people without a valid ticket to enter the airport. People don’t even need to be accompanying anyone to get one. With these passes, you can do whatever you want to – shop in duty-free stores, access the airport lounges, dine in fancy restaurants, meet someone at the gates, or just experience the fast-paced atmosphere inside the airports. 

Visitors are allowed to enter the airport only on specific timeframes and they still have to go through security to be scanned for dangerous goods. This is a free service, but there is a limited number of visitor passes that each airport hands out daily. You have to apply for the same at least 24 hours in advance, and you can do it on the official website of the airport by filling out a form and providing the required identification information.  

Let’s take a look at the airports that have access programs or that hand out visitor passes – 

Pittsburgh International AirportPittsburgh Airport is one of the first airports in the USA that introduce the visitor’s pass. Visitors can enjoy this program Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. But, unfortunately, the Pittsburgh myPITpass program is currently temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Seattle-Tacoma International AirportNon-passengers can apply for the SEA Visitor Pass up to 7 days in advance. The airport officials hand out up to 100 passes each day. And, the airport program is accessible every day from 8 AM to 10 PM.
Detroit Metropolitan AirportVisitors can apply for the DTW Destination Pass on the official website of the airport on the day prior to their visit. The airport has limited the number of visitors to 75 passes per day and the visitors can enter the airport on Tuesdays through Sundays from 8 AM to 8 PM. When you enter the airport, you’ll have to go to a dedicated ‘DTW Destinations Pass’ desk. 
Tampa International AirportThe visitor pass of Tampa airport operates from 8 AM to 8 PM. It allows non-passengers with a pass to visit airside bars, restaurants, and passengers’ waiting areas in the terminal. But, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the TPA All Access program has been temporarily suspended.
John Wayne AirportYou can apply for the Post Security Access Pass of the John Wayne Airport only inside the airport on the date of the visit. You can enter from 6 AM to 7 PM, but you must exit the airport by 11 PM. You can bring only one personal item, such as a purse or a backpack. You can enjoy a range of amenities, dinner, or shop from your favorite brands at the airport. 
Bishop International Airport in Flint, MichiganPeople can apply for the FNT Visitor Pass the day prior to their visit. This program is accessible Monday to Friday and welcomes non-passengers from 8 AM to 6 PM. You can apply only for one pass each month. 
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport The MSY Guest Pass program is available daily at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport from 11 AM to 8 PM. You need to apply for the pass no less than 24 hours in advance of your visit. On weekdays, only 50 visitors are allowed and 100 on weekends. People can get only one visitor pass each month. 


Non-passengers were able to navigate any airport they wanted before 2001 because it was very easy to get a gate pass from the airlines. But, post-2001, it became super hard to get through airport security without a valid airline ticket due to the terror attacks and safety concerns. Nowadays, you can get through only if you’re accompanying a minor, the elderly, people with special needs, military service family member, or if you’re entering one of the few airports that offer visitor passes. Many of airports are introducing visitor pass programs, which means that in the future, we might get through security very easy to access all the amenities and luxuries that airports have to offer without an airline ticket. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can you go through TSA without a ticket or a boarding pass?

A: Definitely Not. You cannot cross the TSA security checkpoint without an airline ticket or a boarding pass. You can pass the security if you’re accompanying minors, the elderly, or people with special needs. But, you’ll still need a gate pass. There are also some airports that offer visitor pass programs that will allow you to enter the airport terminal and explore it. 

Q: How far can you go to an airport if you don’t have a ticket?

A: If you’re accompanying your family member or a friend and you don’t have an escort pass that allows you to pass to the gate, you can only go with that person to the check-in counter, and drop off the bags, but you cannot pass the security checkpoint.

Q: How to get an Escort or Gate Pass? 

A: You can get your Escort or Gate Pass at the airport, at check-in counters, or at gate pass desks. Some airport also offers the facility to apply for a gate pass online on their official websites.  

Q: Why can you not go through airport security without a boarding pass? 

A: The security in airports used to be pretty lenient, but since 2001, it’s been tightened to avoid terrorism threats. That’s why people without boarding passes or valid tickets are not allowed to go through airport security. 

We hope you get all the answers to your questions. If you still have doubts, let us know in the comment section below. We will try our best to resolve all your queries as soon as possible. 

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About Renu Dahiya | View Posts

Renu Dahiya is a passionate writer who worships her profession. Her love for writing has encouraged her to pursue her career as a writer. Her friends call her a “travel worm” and always come to her to know some interesting traveling tips and destinations. Renu is a repository of knowledge about traveling who knows which place should be visited in which season. Oh yes, she is insanely in love with dancing too. Writer, traveler and dancer, a perfect combination! Without a doubt, she is a complete package.

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