Flight attendants lambaste Pittsburgh airport plan to let non-flyers shop

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A Pittsburgh airport program that will allow people without a boarding pass into secured areas during weekday business hours has drawn a strong rebuke from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA).

"Allowing the non-flying public to go through security at the Pittsburgh International Airport for the sole purpose of shopping is a terrible precedent and an ill-conceived decision," APFA national president Bob Ross said in a statement Friday. The union says it represents 25,000 American Airlines flight attendants.

"Flight attendants are the last line of defense on an aircraft, and as first responders we know this move by TSA is a bad idea that needs to be reversed," Ross continued. "Aviation security relies on a layered approach where if terrorists breech a layer, second and third layers come into play to protect us."

The Pittsburgh program, called MyPITpass, starts on Tuesday. When it launches, Pittsburgh will become the first U.S. airport since 9/11 to allow members of the public who don't have a ticket into secured areas.

Non-flyers, however, will still go through security just like airline passengers do. To obtain a MyPITpass, individuals will be required to check in on the third floor of the airport, across from Allegiant's ticketing location, by showing a photo ID. There, they'll be vetted and given a stamped pass to take to security. Then they will go through the TSA screening checkpoint, following the standard rules that apply to flyers.

In an interview this week, Allegheny Country Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said she doesn't expect the program to impact security lines since it will last only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The airport's rush, she said, comes between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.

However, if lines to begin to back up, ticketed passengers would be given priority, Cassotis said.

Ross looked askance at that assurance. 

"Beyond security concerns, having shoppers clog already frustratingly long TSA security lines will lead to flight delays and more passengers missing flights, especially during the busy holiday season," he said.

The TSA and Pittsburgh officials worked out the details of the MyPITpass program over the course of two years of discussion, Cassotis said.

In a statement this week, the TSA said the program won't reduce security at Pittsburgh airport.

Along with shoppers and diners, the MyPITpass program will cater to individuals who wish to greet or accompany friends or loves ones at their gate.

APFA said it has sent letters to Department of Transportation secretary Elaine Chao, acting Department of Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke and TSA administrator David Pekoske objecting to the program.

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