Airport Hotel Guests to get Access to Airmall

You won't have to be flying anymore to visit shops and restaurants in Pittsburgh International Airport's Airmall. But you will have to spend the night at the airport's Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Starting Monday, overnight guests at the Hyatt, which is on airport property, will have access to a one-of-a-kind perk -- they will be able to shop or dine in the boarding terminal without having a plane ticket.

Except for rare exceptions, the boarding terminal, which houses nearly all of the Airmall's shops and restaurants, has been off-limits to people who aren't flying since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The pilot program allowing Hyatt overnight guests access without a ticket is a small victory for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, but it's not nearly as broad as it wanted. It has been pushing for several years to allow all nonticketed visitors access to the Airmall.

"It's not to the extent we wanted it to go but it's a step in the right direction," authority Executive Director Kent George said.

To visit the shops and restaurants, hotel guests will be screened at the security checkpoint, just like fliers. They also will have to abide by all of the same restrictions, including the ban on liquids and gels that are more than three ounces in size.

Jay Kruisselbrink, vice president of development for BAA Pittsburgh, which operates the Airmall, said he's not sure exactly what impact the pilot program will have on business.

The Airmall has been able to hold its own -- last year the per passenger spending was more than $13, the highest ever at the airport -- despite dramatic cutbacks by dominant airline US Airways. The number of people passing through the airport has dropped from a high of about 20 million to about 10 million last year.

Anything that will add to that number is welcomed, Mr. Kruisselbrink said.

While the county's airport authority still would like to see the Airmall opened to all nonticketed visitors, Mr. George said he doesn't expect the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to allow that anytime soon.

"At this time, the climate isn't lending itself to that," he said.

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