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Arrival of DTW Destination Pass kiosks reduces turbulence for non-flying visitors

Destination Pass kiosk in Detroit Metro Airport's Evans terminal.
Paulette Parker
Destination Pass kiosk in Detroit Metro Airport's Evans terminal.

Ever since 9/11, taking someone to the airport meant driving up and dropping them off with a curb-side hug goodbye. Some miss the days of walking back to the terminal with a loved one and hanging out until boarding. But it is possible again.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport is one of seven major airports in the U.S. that has a Destination Pass program, which allows visitors to go past security without a plane ticket.

Michigan Public's Katheryne Friske went to Detroit Metro to find out more on a day when her husband was flying in. She joined up with Matt Morawski, director of communications and external affairs at the airport.

The airport started offering Destination Passes in 2019 but paused the program during COVID. Now, there are self-serve kiosks, which Morawski said launched last October. "It was a long, long process, to get something like this in the airport here," Morawski said. "It's been a huge success so far. Since October, we've issued 25,000 destination passes. So the demand is there."

The airport complex has three of the kiosks, Morawski said: one in each of the two terminals, and one in the Westin Hotel, which is attached to the McNamara terminal.

He said Detroit Metro is one of the first airports in the country to use the kiosk system.

"Other airports have the program where, you know, you submit in advance. But, we're one of the first to have this kiosk. So it's pretty cool. The kiosk is what makes it almost instant, you know, within a few minutes you can get the pass and go through instead of having to submit your name the day before," Morawski said.

And it's free. Getting a Destination Pass doesn't cost anything. Morawski said that's the best part. All that's needed to get one is a government issued ID like a driver's license or passport. "And if you have kids who don't have ID or anything like that, you can add them on to yours. Like if you have brought your kids with you or something like that," he added.

The kiosk is tucked away in the ticketing area of the Evans terminal, just around the corner of the elevators. It is sleek and modern.

The process of getting a pass was quick and easy. It took less than a minute from start to finish with prompts for guidance.

From there, passholders will go through the Transportation Security Administration line.

"The security check is just like any traveling passenger. So it goes through the same process, your bags checked," Morawski said. You still have to take off your shoes and maybe your belt. "It's the same process as if you were getting on an airplane and going on a trip except you're just not getting on the airplane. That's it. The only difference," he said.

It does tend to be easier, since visitors do not typically bring luggage along.

"The people who we see using [Destination Passes] most frequently is someone who is either taking a loved one to the gate so they can go through and sit with them, have lunch, do a little shopping; or meeting a friend who, may have a layover in here," Morawski said. "So anyone who wants to go through security and spend more time with their loved one, shop, eat, whatever. ... It's just an option where you don't have to drop them off at the curb or anything like that. You can stay with them longer."

Morawski also said families have used the Destination Pass to practice the airport experience with their kids. Some use it to be with a loved one just before take off or just after arrival.

And there is plenty to do while waiting or visiting. Morawski said there are over 100 shops and restaurants between the two major terminals. "There's Atwater over there. There's Jolly Pumpkin down here," he pointed out as we walked back to the gate. "Two popular Detroit breweries. And in every store, you know, Detroit merchandise. We try to bring the Detroit feel here to the airport."

Katheryne Friske is the weekend morning host and producer for All Things Considered.
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