The Pittsburgh International Airport is about to become the nation's first airport to allow non-fliers through the security checkpoints to shop and dine within the terminals.
But American Airlines flight attendants think the new program, set to start Tuesday, is a bad idea that will make it easier for terrorists to get access to the airport and will frustrate travelers with longer screening lines.
"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," said Bob Ross, national president for the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents the American Airlines workers.
TSA officials say everyone entering the airport will undergo the same screening procedure, but travelers will get priority. If the lines get too long, airport officials will stop allowing non-fliers into the screening lines, TSA officials said.
Pittsburgh airport officials say the new program should not create a jam-up at screening checkpoints because non-fliers will be allowed in during the non-peak hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Also, non-fliers have been allowed into the airport during the holiday shopping season over the past three years with no problems, said Bob Kerlik, a spokesman for the airport.
"We don't envision an impact to the wait times at all," he said.
There are no plans yet to expand the program to other airports, but the flight attendants union worries that other major airports, looking to boost revenues and sales, could be tempted to adopt a similar plan.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport underwent a $1.9-billion makeover in 2013 that included more than 60 new shops and eateries. LAX officials say they have not discussed plans to adopt a program to allow non-fliers past the screening checkpoints.