Although the lines likely will be longer at Sea-Tac Airport this summer, officials expect a new solution will reduce the time passengers are kept waiting as they pass through security checkpoints.
The Port of Seattle, which manages the airport, announced Thursday that 90 private contractors have been hired to assist with line management. Transportation Security Administration workers will continue to perform necessary security-related duties.
The newly trained workers will be assigned “nonregulatory” tasks, according to airport spokesman Brian DeRoy.
“We worked with airlines and TSA, seeing how lines flow, where people take their shoes off, where they put water bottles. We found several areas (of improvement),” he said Thursday.
The new employees will perform duties as simple as helping passengers move bins or directing them to the most efficient lines. TSA employees will continue to check identification, operate body scanners and perform other duties specific to their security mission.
While the new employees assist passengers, DeRoy said, TSA workers could be freed to open more lines, reducing waittimes.
Also, DeRoy said, the airport Monday will begin offering more space and more tables in areas where passengers can deposit and collect belongings both before and after being screened.
A pilot program testing the more efficient program led to a 40 percent reduction in the time spent preparing to deposit belongings.
The new employees will work through the summer season, DeRoy said.
And it’s going to be a busy summer.
Sea-Tac, the country’s 13th busiest airport, has watched passenger volumes grow 10 percent so far this year coupled with last year’s 12.9 percent growth.
“If we don’t do something, it would only be worse,” DeRoy said. “We realized we have to be proactive.”
The average time Sea-Tac passengers wait to pass through security checkpoints has steadied at 20 minutes, DeRoy said, although delays can occur during the busiest times. Last Saturday, for example, passengers from a Seattle cruise ship descended as a group, causing delays.
And the summer travel season is only starting to ramp up.
A release from the Port of Seattle predicts the Memorial Day weekend will see an increase in the number of travelers, with fully 145,000 expected to pass through the airport May 27. That’s an increase of 25,000 over the same holiday travel day last year.
Along with better bin management, faster line control and more space to remove shoes, the Port of Seattle is adding one more feature aimed at upgrading the downtime.
According to the port release, live musicians are being hired to perform near the checkpoint crunch points “to reduce passenger stress.”
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535
SUMMER TRAVEL TIPS FOR FLIERS
Memorial Day weekend launches the summer travel season, which officials expect will yield a greater volume of Sea-Tac passengers than last year. August leads the airport’s busiest season, followed by July and June.
▪ The busiest times at TSA checkpoints are typically between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., and between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
▪ Peak travel days are Thursday and Friday.
▪ Officials advise that travelers arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours before taking an international flight.