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.

Read the original story: The Secret Perk of New Airport Shopping Rules in Pittsburgh by Ed Perkins, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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