Security checkpoints 101

Security checkpoints at the airport look so simple, but can be very frustrating for travelers. There’s more to it than you may think and, yes, there are reasons and rationale behind what you see. Here’s a quick guide to security checkpoints at Sea-Tac Airport that may help you during your next visit.

First off, we admit, sometimes lines are worse than we’d like to see. Part of it is a challenge with staffing, part of it is our small terminal footprint, and other parts are unpredictable variables. Our goal is to try and keep lines under 20-minute wait times. Our best advice is to plan for a checkpoint wait of 30 to 45 minutes in peak seasons like summer and holidays. It’s better to arrive early and be safe rather than sorry … and miss a flight!

TSA Staffing

Every Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer is working hard to keep passengers and our flights safe. The Port of Seattle works closely with the TSA to manage the checkpoint process to find ways to improve. Simply put, the TSA is responsible for the security process and the checkpoints, while the Port helps to manage the queues outside the checkpoints. Currently, the TSA is faced with staffing challenges to attract more staff and to train recent hires for more help at the checkpoints. The more staff they have, the more lanes they can open, and the more passengers we can get through the checkpoints.

K9s at Work

One of the other keys to checkpoints is the K9 team. These are the explosive detection dogs you see sniffing along the lines as you walk through the checkpoint before the document checkers. When one of the K9s is working a checkpoint, they expedite the screening and the lines move faster. That’s why you often see Port Pathfinders encouraging travelers to move into certain checkpoint lanes. The line may look long, but it does move faster when the K9 team is working. It may not make sense to you to move from one lane to another, but our Pathfinders work to balance the lines every day and they know their business. Keep an eye out for the people wearing the teal jackets — their jobs are to get you in the shortest line possible.

Staffing and K9 availability are two reasons why you may see certain checkpoints that are not open to general screening. It takes more staff just to open a checkpoint. However, if you take that same number of staff to another checkpoint, you can open more lanes and increase throughput — getting travelers through the scanners. So, it makes more sense to open more lanes at one checkpoint than use more staff to open fewer lanes at another. Again, it may be counter-intuitive at first glance, but it makes sense when you break it down.

Increase in Travelers

A final, and significant, factor is the tremendous growth in passengers at Sea-Tac. During peak periods our lines grow quickly outside the area just in front of the checkpoint, and it often looks worse than it is. Other airports have a large hall space that accommodates queues and allows travelers to see the checkpoint ahead to gauge their progress moving forward. Here at Sea-Tac, our facility is very narrow. So, the area in front of the checkpoint is not very large and when lines go beyond that area, we have to weave lines into breezeways, around escalators, and down the hall. The same number of people can be in the line, like at other airports, but the fact that you can’t see the checkpoint makes you think “this is going to take forever!”

Sea-Tac Airport is working hard to find more ways to keep lines manageable. We hope this helps you understand the factors that contribute to longer lines. And we wish you safe and speedy travels!

Use Sea-Tac’s digital resources to stay up to date!


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

[flipp]

More in Marketplace

Your neighborhood one-stop-shop for family fun!

Snap some photos of your afternoon at Grand Ridge Plaza for a chance to win

David Good, owner of The Green Door in Seattle. Budtenders at the store will teach you about cannabis and help you find a product that suits your needs.
‘Budding’ chemists: learning the science behind a familiar plant

You probably know THC and CBD, but this Seattle budtender suggests digging deeper

Cool ice cream, hot Thai or breezy cocktails… How does your summer taste?

Show Grand Ridge Plaza what you’re eating this summer for a chance to win awesome prizes!

What makes this cannabis store ‘Seattle’s favorite?’

Long-standing Rainier Street shop has changed with the times, and kept spirits high

2 ‘budding’ products to tackle stressful times

Neighborhood retailer builds relationships with customers to help meet their needs

Take a trip to SnoValley — in person or online — for one-of-a-kind creations

Snoqualmie’s hub of art and creativity moves online

Reprioritizing wellness? Explore the options here!

Issaquah’s one-stop-shop for fitness, health and full-body therapy

Join the Rescue Squad! Seattle Humane hosts first-ever Day of Giving

Show your love for local animals with community-driven fundraiser July 17

Best Pick Reports features a curated list of professionals, evaluated based on thousands of Seattle-area customer interviews.
For a successful home project, trust a professional guaranteed by Best Pick Reports

Free guide gives Seattle area homeowners a wealth of resources, and peace of mind

United Way seeks support for King County residents during COVID-19

Because of the current pandemic and economic fallout, the needs of the… Continue reading

Zsofia Pasztor, founder of Woodinville-based non-profit Farmer Frog, is a certified horticulturist, arborist and landscape designer who helps build community and family gardens, starting from a foundation of Cedar Grove soil and compost.
Family gardening can be fun and fruitful!

Cedar Grove soils can help you get the most out of your home planting season

Dining in: savor the flavors of Downtown Issaquah!

Take advantage of the range of local restaurants offering takeout and delivery options