Travelers, parents, and freedom lovers everywhere are rejoicing over a new policy at a Los Angeles-area airport that will permit non-ticketed guests to pass through security and venture throughout the airport, including the airport gates.
On October 17, Ontario International Airport, about an hour east of LAX, launched a new program called ONT+ that will permit anyone to proceed through the security checkpoint and move freely throughout the rest of the airport, so long as they register for a pass in advance.
Those who wish to greet arriving passengers, see loved ones off, or shop or dine in airport facilities are now free to do so. All they must do is fill out an online application within seven days of their intended visit. Same-day visits are possible, but time slots are limited and may be full, as non-travelers must still follow the same security protocols as their traveling counterparts. So prospective participants are encouraged to make arrangements in advance.
Those whose applications are accepted will receive an email with a required pass. Printed passes will not be accepted. There is no cost for an ONT+ pass.
Many, including ONT officials, are celebrating the policy change.
“We all remember the excitement of being able to meet arriving family and friends as they get off the plane,” said ONT public safety administrator Dean Brown, dating himself. “ONT+ is a way to bring back some of that experience from decades ago, in a safe and secure manner.”
Those who are old enough can, indeed, recall a time before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, when non-ticketed persons could move freely to gates, restaurants, and other meeting areas. But heightened airport security and lengthy baggage screenings quickly established after that fateful day prompted airport administrators to bar visitors from almost all areas of the airport except ticketing counters and baggage claim.
Now, ONT offers a return to the pre-9/11 era, a time when parents can safely escort minor plane travelers to and from their gates and businessmen and women can conduct meetings with associates on a lengthy layover.
Pass holders are also allowed to leave the airport and return, so long as they go through security each time. Pass holders are allowed to remain until 10:00 p.m., at which time they will be encouraged to make their way to the exit.
Though some outlets have reported that ONT+ is the first of its kind, similar policies have already been implemented at other major airports, including Detroit Metro, Louis Armstrong in New Orleans, and Tampa International. ONT+ is considered “a permanent program,” according to SimpleFlying, but ONT representatives said they have the right to rescind it at any time.
“ONT+ is another example of how Ontario International is always at the forefront of amenities and services that can enhance the customer experience,” said Alan D. Wapner, president of the Ontario International Airport Authority Board of Commissioners and Mayor pro Tem of the City of Ontario, in a statement