The Secret Perk of New Airport Shopping Rules in Pittsburgh

According to a report in the Post-Gazette, people who live in the Pittsburgh area can now load up at those wonderful “Airmall” shops airside at Pittsburgh airport without having to fly anywhere. A new pilot “myPITpass” program allows people without tickets to go airside, as long as they show the usual ID and go through the usual TSA screening, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. weekdays.

The main impetus, as far as I can tell, is that the Airmall shops at PGH have had a tough time since US Airways de-hubbed the airport starting in 2004-05. Traffic dropped off so much that parts of the terminal have been shut down with gates shut off, and retailers who invested in Airmall facilities during the heyday have been hurting.

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Don’t expect this idea to catch on across the country. Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s very few large airports operating at far below its planned capacity. To most airport managers, adding a bunch of non-travelers to TSA lines sounds like madness.  And from a consumer standpoint, do you even vaguely consider your local airport to be a likely shopping mall?

But here’s the secret perk that makes it all worth it: Although the program is hyped for shopping, the main beneficiaries are probably family members who want to see off or welcome someone at the gate rather than at the TSA entry or baggage claim.

Those are pleasant rituals we all miss from the good old days. And now, at least in Pittsburgh, they’re back.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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