SEATAC, Wash. – More workers are at work at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for another busy travel weekend. This comes after a chaos of long lines of people arriving at the parking garage waiting to go through the TSA security checkpoint. Many travelers missed their flights because of this.
Port of Seattle officials said a lack of morning staff last weekend was one reason for the delays.
“And then it turned into a rolling ball that just couldn’t be slowed down as it headed up the hill,” said Port of Seattle spokesman Perry Cooper.
With the extra staff working Friday, the longest wait time recorded was 40 minutes and the average was 20 minutes, according to the Port of Seattle. Perry Cooper, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle, said more staff will be working throughout the weekend to help with the influx of people.
“They’re working on getting extra staff. In fact, we even got extra K-9s that helped the line out here today,” Cooper said.
Questions remain as to why waiting times spiraled out of control last weekend to the point where people queued for an average of 90 minutes, with some waiting for hours, causing them to miss their flights. Cooper said after an extensive review with stakeholders, the following factors were determined to cause the challenges:
- Summer-level travel volume continues into the normally slower fall season. This is a post-pandemic business challenge that reflects changing trends. Summer level volume has not yet fallen as usual. On Sunday, TSA screened more passengers between 7:00 A.M. – 1:00 p.m. than any other morning since the pandemic.
- Traditionally, SEA traffic drops about 15% after Labor Day. The pandemic is changing the dynamics of travel trends. With this in mind, TSA brought in extra staff from around the country to cover SEA’s summer peak, which went very well. This additional staffing ended on Labor Day. However, travel numbers continued to remain at summer levels.
- Maintenance and construction resulted in two lanes being offline at one of the checkpoints.
Cooper said TSA staffing shortages are another problem facing airports across the country. With the trend of extended leisure travel continuing for the foreseeable future, both the Port of Seattle and TSA are working together to attract more workers to Sea-Tac.
“Try to continue to hire additional TSA personnel here for the Seattle area, just as we’re seeing additional hiring that we want for airport employees, restaurants and retail people,” Cooper said.
Cooper and the Port of Seattle said what happened last weekend was unacceptable. While officials are working to fix it, they are also urging travelers to show up early.
“If you have a flight in the morning between 5:00 and 11:00, you really have to be here early. We say two hours before the domestic flight, three hours for the overseas. And that’s just to make sure you’re here in case where a line is longer than you expected,” Cooper said.
Sea-Tac Airport has an app called SEA Spot Saver. Through the app, travelers can reserve a seat in the queue to reduce waiting time. Although the app is currently notifying travelers Spot Saver may not be available at this time due to high demand for appointments and suggesting users plan extra time.