Families Can See Off, Greet Troops at Airport Gates
(December 15, 2009)
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2009 – It's a scene that's played out
in airports across the country numerous times in the past
eight years: Families and servicemembers clinging to each
other, either sad to leave or happy and vowing to never let
The emotion always is appropriate, but the location of the
scene – just beyond the airline ticket counters and before
the security checkpoint - robs the actors of precious
minutes with loved ones. Those lost minutes are unnecessary,
at least as far as the Transportation Security
Administration is concerned, a TSA spokesman said.
“TSA permits the airlines to offer a gate pass to family
members of arriving or departing U.S. servicemembers,” Greg
Soule said. “So, family members who want to accompany a ...
servicemember being deployed to the boarding gate, or greet
them [as they return] from deployment at the arrival gate
may receive passes to enter the secure area of the airport.”
Though TSA allows this practice, the final decision rests
with the airlines, from which family members must request
the passes. Each airline, and possibly even airport, has its
own rules and procedures, Soule said.
Families interested in obtaining a gate pass need to check
with the airline before arriving at the airport to determine
the exact rules and procedures.
“It's an airline procedure,” Soule said. “It is something
that TSA has permitted the airlines to do, though we have
security regulations that we provide to the airlines.
“Typically, only passengers who are flying and have a
boarding pass are allowed to pass through security,” he
TSA makes this allowance out of support for the armed
forces, Soule said.
Though military family members with gate passes can pass
through security, they must adhere to all security
regulations. This includes removing coats, jackets and
shoes, and the liquids regulation. Anything of a liquid or
gel consistency must be 3.4 ounces or less and be sealed in
a quart-sized storage bag to pass through security, Soule
Each family member would have to present the gate pass as
well as a valid government-issued identification card, Soule
TSA doesn't keep statistics on how frequently military
families take advantage of this opportunity. Volunteers at
Washington-Dulles International Airport's USO lounge said
they are not frequently asked about the program or for
assistance in obtaining the passes.
Separations and reunions are emotional enough in normal
situations, but with the holidays in full swing, they're
even more poignant. And thanks to the TSA and cooperating
airlines, they can be more positive.
“We're happy to do this and make this small exemption,” he
added, noting that TSA officials recognize that military
families, as well as servicemembers, make sacrifices for the
The TSA has no jurisdiction overseas, so U.S. military
family members wishing to see off or meet their
servicemember at a foreign airport are encouraged to check
with the airline for local policy.
The policy on gate passes is available on the Transportation
Security Administration's Web site under the heading
“Accommodations for U.S. Military Personnel.”
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
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