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My mother-in-law is Chinese and doesn't speak more than a couple words of English. We're planning on dropping her off at LAX to fly China Air to China.

I don't know anything about international flight, so I don't know what the passenger experience is at that part of the airport - if lack of English would be an issue getting through security and to the gate. So I was wondering if it would be reasonable to ask for a gate pass to let us accompany her.

I've only read that they do it for children or elderly people, but nothing I've read mentions a pass to help someone who doesn't speak English.

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    It is the airline agent who issues the gate pass, so for a definitive yes or no, you'll need to contact the airline. Also, there is no airline "China Air" at LAX; do you mean Air China or China Airlines? There is a big difference. – choster Jan 27 '16 at 19:40
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    @choster Ok thanks - didn't realize that it would be airline-specific - I would have expected that it would be based on the airport's security policies, since multiple airlines fly from the same terminals. Weird. And I didn't actually know there was both Air China and China Airlines - I'm pretty sure this is Air China. – Joe Enos Jan 27 '16 at 19:47
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    Security isn't handled by the airport, it's handled by the TSA, and the TSA only checks to see if the airline has authorized someone to go through screening or not— meaning you are a ticketed passenger, crew, or someone holding a gate pass. So the airline really is the gatekeeper. I would call them and explain the circumstances; I'm sure you're not the first in this situation. – choster Jan 27 '16 at 20:52
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    The typical solution is a refundable ticket to a flight some 4-6 hours ahead , check with the small print it's refundable after check in. – chx Jan 28 '16 at 6:21
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    @chx Just seems a really messed up way to bend the rules. You're causing extra work for agents to book and cancel, possibly screwing real potential passengers out of a seat, possibly getting added to a suspicious TSA list for not having any luggage, etc. But you're right, that would seem to be a reasonably simple way to do it. – Joe Enos Jan 28 '16 at 13:03
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If she is 'elderly' you can

It's a bit of a game but there exclusions for the elderly and accompaniment of them. Her lack of English would not qualify. There are millions of people daily traveling in foreign lands and lack of local language is rarely met with empathy.

The elderly, however, can require assistance in these situations. You can tell her too look around and act confused. If she is elderly enough, this could very well pass muster.

Some disingenuous behavior may be required though.

  • Nice idea, but I'm a terrible liar, and I really am not in the mood for a TSA agent to get suspicious and lock me in a room with rubber glove guy :) – Joe Enos Jan 28 '16 at 12:56

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