SEATAC, Washing. – More Workers are at work for a busy weekend trip at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. This is after long queues of people waiting to get through the TSA security checkpoint backed up into the parking lot. Many travelers missed their flights because of this.
Port of Seattle officials said the lack of morning staff last weekend was one reason for the backlogs.
“And then it became a rolling ball that couldn’t slow down as it went down the hill,” said Port of Seattle spokesperson Perry Cooper.
With extra staff working on Friday, the longest recorded wait time was 40 minutes, averaging 20 minutes compared to the Port of Seattle. Port of Seattle spokesman Perry Cooper said more staff will work all weekend to help with the influx of people.
“They’re working on recruiting additional staff. In fact, we even got the additional K-9 that helped work here today,” Cooper said.
Questions remain as to why wait times got out of control last weekend, with people queuing for an average of 90 minutes, with some waiting for hours and causing them to miss their flights. Cooper said that after a thorough review with stakeholders, the following factors causing difficulties were identified:
- Summer level travel volume continues through the normally slower autumn season. This is a challenge with post-pandemic operations that reflects changing trends. The volume at summer level has not yet dropped as it normally does. On Sunday, the TSA screened more passengers between 7am and 1pm than any other morning since the pandemic.
- Traditionally, traffic in the SEA drops by about 15% after Labor Day. The pandemic is changing the dynamic of travel trends. With this in mind, TSA brought in additional staff from across the country to meet the SEA summer summit, which went very well. This additional staffing ended on Labor Day; however, travel numbers remained at summer levels.
- Maintenance and construction disabled two lanes at one of the checkpoints.
A shortage of TSA personnel is another problem that airports across the country are experiencing, Cooper said. With the continued trend of long-term leisure travel for the unforeseen future, both the Port of Seattle and TSA are working together to bring more workers to Sea-Tac.
“Just try to continue hiring additional TSA personnel here for the Seattle area, just as we’ve seen the additional hires we want for airport workers, food and retail workers,” Cooper said.
Cooper and the Port of Seattle said what happened last weekend was unacceptable. As authorities work to rectify the situation, they are also warning travelers to arrive early.
“If you have a 5am to 11am flight, you need to be here really early. We say two hours ahead of your domestic flight and three hours ahead of your international flight. Make sure you’re here in case the queue is longer than you expected,” said Cooper.
Sea-Tac Airport has an app called SEA Spot Saver. Via the app, passengers can book a place in line to help reduce waiting time. While the app is currently alerting travelers, Spot Saver may not be available at this time due to high demand for appointments and people suggesting scheduling extra time.