Port of Seattle Approves Contracted Help to Ease Long Lines at TSA Checkpoints

Ninety temporary private contractors will allow TSA to deploy more staff to checkpoint screening.

The Port of Seattle Commission took action April 12th to speed up Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint lines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport by hiring temporary private contractors for the summer travel season. The additional contractors will assist passengers so more TSA staff can work screening lanes.

The Port’s action comes after long wait times have built up due to continued double-digit passenger growth and nationwide TSA staffing struggles due to budget restrictions. Washington’s U.S. Senator’s Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have recently pressed the TSA to find ways to help Sea-Tac, the nation’s fastest growing large hub airport for the last two years.

“These long lines are unacceptable and they’re happening even before our busy summer season, said Port of Seattle Commissioner Tom Albro. “The Port is stepping up to help travelers get through the airport as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are listening to our travelers and making up for TSA staff shortages.”

Areas where private contractors will be deployed include non-security customer service tasks such as bin loading (moving plastic tubs from one end of the screening lane to another), divesting (communicating to travelers what to remove from pockets and bags) and line management (moving travelers to shorter and faster checkpoints). The temporary hiring will last from May through September to cover the busiest travel season (June, July and August are the busiest months of the year at Sea-Tac). The additional staff is expected to be in place by May 1.

The contracted staffing will allow the TSA staff to focus solely on security and open more checkpoint lanes in order to gain higher passenger through put. Currently Sea-Tac has 32 screening lanes but the TSA only has staffing for 17-19 lanes.

“We are taking a very innovative approach to serve our customers while maintaining a high level of security,” said Sea-Tac Managing Director Lance Lyttle. “I understand the frustrations of travelers who are waiting in long TSA security lines. We’re partnering with our airlines and the TSA to take swift action which will help our customers. Sea-Tac is experiencing record passenger growth and this additional security staff is a proactive way to address customer and airline needs to remain a world-class facility.”

In addition to the contracted staff, Port of Seattle Security staff will temporarily take over duties at exit lanes to free up additional TSA staff for the checkpoints. The temporary staffing will be re-evaluated at the end of the summer travel season.

Travelers are encouraged to visit Sea-Tac’s Travel Tips webpage prior to flights to know what items are and are not allowed in carry-on luggage. If you qualify, applying for TSA’s PreCheck program may help speed up your security checkpoint process.

Sea-Tac airport had a 12.9 percent increase in passengers in 2015, and through February, passenger totals are up nine percent compared with this time last year. Because of such growth, it is recommended travelers arrive two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours early for international travel to allow time to park, get through airline ticketing and the security checkpoints.