Overlooking view of people on an airport

How to Get a Gate Pass at the Airport (To Get Through Security)

A gate pass allows the holder to get through security at an airport, even though they are not actually flying anywhere. There are a variety of reasons why you might need or want to do this, such as being at a gate to welcome family or to bring your spouse something they forgot before they board the plane.

Whatever the reason, this article will tell you what you need to know about how to get a gate pass at the airport.

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Can You Get Through Security Without a Ticket?

Although not airports allow it, in certain circumstances it may be possible to get through security without a ticket if you are able to secure a gate pass.

To get through airport security, aside from some patience, you really only need two things:

  • A valid I.D. or driver’s license
  • A boarding pass for your flight (or a gate pass, where permitted)

If you don’t have a ticket, your only option will be to get a gate pass at the airport. But not all airports allow gate passes, and the circumstances in which they allow them vary. We’ll talk about those in a minute, but first let’s address how to get a pass if you qualify.

How to Get a Gate Pass at the Airport

To get a gate pass at the airport, you need to contact the airport in question and ask about their specific procedures and rules for allowing gate passes. Find the airports website and find a phone number for “information” or “services.” Alternatively, if you are accompanying a flying passenger, you can try contacting the airline’s help desk.

Be aware that in many circumstances you simply may not be eligible for a gate pass. Usually you need a ticket to get through security, but exceptions can be and are made. In most cases it’s only when there is good reason. Below is a list of common reasons why people might need to get a gate pass.

If you are simply worried about a child who is flying alone then an unaccompanied minor service is available for a fee at most major airlines. You may see people being pushed through terminals in wheelchairs or even riding gold carts, these services are provided by the airlines for people who can’t make it to their gates safely alone.

Common Reasons Some Airports Allow Airport Gate Passes

A caretaker pushing a wheelchair with an elderly on it on an airport

Some of these reasons are valid reasons for getting through airport security without a boarding pass and most airlines will allow you to do so. There are a couple of reasons listed that aren’t considered important enough and while it would be nice, they probably aren’t going to get you through to see your loved one off or arrive.

Escorting the Elderly or Disabled

Sometimes elderly people have trouble walking long distances, aren’t able to walk without assistance, or simply get confused about where they’re supposed to go. Airlines provide wheelchair assistance services for disabled passengers.

Escorting a Child Flying Alone

As mentioned above, when escorting a young child, you can apply for security clearance in order to escort your young traveller to their gate. Additionally, you can pay for a service where someone will accompany them on and off of their flights. Here is Delta’s unaccompanied minor program page.

Military Families

I wife surprising her military husband

Families of active military persons may greet them at their gates or see them off. The family must see their airline at the ticket counter when arriving and explain their situation, possibly provide proof, and they can receive their gate passes to get through airport security.

Here is a quote directly from the tsa.gov website:

Military Family Member Gate Passes – Family members who want to accompany a military service member being deployed to the boarding gate or greet them returning from deployment at the arrival gate may receive passes to enter the secure area of the airport. Interested military family members should contact their air carrier representative at the departure/arrival airport for proper local procedures. Remember, the family members will have to be screened through the TSA checkpoint just as if they were flying.


Escorting a Loved One is Usually Not Enough

We would like to be able to do this sometimes, give someone a hug just before they board their flight or watch them walk out of the jet way and see that surprise on their face when they recognize you. Especially when picking someone up, many times I have gotten to the airport very early and would have loved to walk on to their gate.

In many cases this is just not a good enough reason and there are waiting areas in most airports where people are waiting for arrivals. Having said that, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try. If you know your arriving party’s airline, then just walk over and explain that you want to meet them at their gate and were hoping you could get a gate pass. The worst they can say is no. Keep in mind, this will never work for international flights due to customs.

Additionally you can call your airline ahead of time and inquire about their gate pass policy. If you want to be a little sneaky you could say it’s this persons birthday, you haven’t seen them in a long time, or something of that nature. Good luck!

If the airline just isn’t cooperating with you and getting that gate pass is extremely important to you, then considering buying a fully refundable airline ticket and just getting your money back after it has served it’s purpose. To me though, this is a lot of trouble and I would most likely just skip the idea of the gate pass.

If you have a legit reason for needing a gate pass and not just a reason for wanting one, then you shouldn’t have trouble in getting one.

👉 Read Next: Things to Do During an Airport Layover


That’s it for this guide to how to get a gate pass at the airport. Next up, read our guide to how to sleep on a plane.

(Cover Image: Kit Leong / Shutterstock)