Since 9/11, security requirements have had the unintended effect of marginalizing many small & mid-size airports, by restricting traffic to those holding boarding passes for the day of travel. This has caused severe hardships for many businesses at these airports (which larger ones like Atlanta or Charlotte do not suffer), causing many businesses to close or to leave as soon as their lease expires. This reduces the offerings for passengers as well, thus making use of the airport less attractive, and causing many airlines to reduce flights to and from those airports to match the reduced appeal, creating a downward cycle. I have seen that happen specifically at Memphis TN, and have heard of it from other passengers elsewhere, such as at Cincinnati OH. Yet we do have ongoing security concerns, and I cannot realistically see turning the clock back to 9/10/2001.
My suggestion is to create an Airport Day Pass (ADP) program linked to the existing TAS-Pre program to permit qualified US citizens to have limited daytime access to airports through the security check-points, to accompany people actually boarding flights and to avail themselves of the businesses within the entire airport. Applicants must: (1) already have applied to the TSA-Pre program and received a Known Traveler Number (KTN); (2) Apply for an Airport Day Pass (ADP) on the TSA website (others are possible) valid from 6am through 6pm local time for a specific airport on a specific date, paying a nominal fee ($5-$10 per pass), with approval contingent on a clear NICS check (as with firearms purchase) as part of the application process; (3) successful applicants would receive a link to download the approval form 24 hours before the day for which the pass has been issued; and (4) applicants using the ADP would have to pass though the usual TSA security checkpoints, showing the pass and a government-issued ID as if they were a passenger. Anyone wanting to visit a second day would have to repeat the application process described above.
This seems like an all-win idea. Airports get more business, and have fewer closings and contractions in service. Passengers can be accompanied by approved family and/or friends. TSA would collect some additional revenue. And there would be no compromise in security. This is an idea, I think, worth considering.