Sea-Tac Airport hires private contractors to help reduce wait times at security checkpoints

Starting next week, 90 private contractors will assist passengers at Seattle Tacoma International Airport as the Port of Seattle moves to alleviate TSA's security checkpoint mess that's been causing long lines and missed flights nationwide.

With the spring and summer cruise ship and tourist crowds about to flood airport checkpoints, Sea-Tac is being pro-active in taking steps to avoid a fiasco such as the one at Chicago's O'Hare International over the weekend when 450 passengers missed their flights due to long waits at security checkpoints. Let's hope it helps.

Here are the details from a Port of Seattle press release issued today: 

"The Port of Seattle is taking several steps to prepare for a record number of travelers anticipated this summer at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  Starting next week, 90 private contractors will assist passengers at security checkpoints and free up TSA personnel to open up more lanes to reduce wait times. An exercise with Sea-Tac, TSA and major airlines led to several strategies designed to make security lines more efficient for travelers.

For the first four months of 2016, passenger traffic has increased 10 percent compared with 2015, which recorded a 12.9 percent passenger increase. More than a half a million passengers are expected to pass through Sea-Tac during Memorial Day weekend (from Thursday May 26 through Monday, May 30), traditionally the kickoff to the summer travel season during the five-day period The busiest day is projected to be Friday, May 27 with approximately 145,000 passengers – that’s 25,000 more than the Friday before Memorial Day last year!

“The Port of Seattle is proactively working to improve the customer experience at checkpoints where we can and working with the TSA to manage wait times  with our record passenger numbers,” said Daniel Zenk, Sea-Tac Airport senior operations and customer service manager. “While these added contractors and other changes will help in the short term, we realize the long solution to the growth at Sea-Tac is more TSA staff, more open lanes and more K9 units. We will continue to work with our federal elected leaders to maintain the level of service our customers expect at the nation’s fastest growing large airport.”

Changes Sea-Tac is making to keep up with record crowds:

-90 full-time equivalent contract workers to free up TSA personnel
-Contractors to work non-regulatory positions before and after x-ray screening
-More areas and tables to get ready for screening while in line (divesting)    
-Pilot program test led to 40 percent faster divesting
-More areas to gather belongings post-screening (revesting)
-Increased focus on line management with Sea-Tac staff targeting peak times
-Hiring more customer service staff for summer
-More signage to direct travelers to checkpoints
-Adding live music performers near checkpoint lines to reduce passenger stress

Sea-Tac’s busiest travel period is June through August (August is typically the busiest month, followed by  July and June). Advice is to arrive a minimum of two hours before domestic and three hours for international flights.

Peak travel days are Thursday and Friday.

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