The summer travel rush began this week at Sea-Tac Airport with security lines so long that more than 150 people have missed Alaska Airlines flights, according to an airline official. It’s been taking as much as an hour to get through the TSA checkpoints at the airport at some times in recent days.
Part of the problem: One checkpoint (being re-designed to cope with the almost daily flood of cruise passengers flying home after their Alaska trips) is under construction and won’t re-open until next week. And the TSA has been closing another checkpoint earlier over the past 1.5 months, at 1.30 p.m. each day, said SeaTac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper.
“We’ve let TSA know we’re very concerned at how large lines have been this week. It’s unusual. We know it’s a busy travel season and these types of plans should be made ahead of time to get people through smoothly,” said Cooper. SeaTac passenger numbers always increase June through August as families and college students travel and cruises out of Seattle draw thousands of passengers almost daily.
If you’re going to Sea-Tac, here’s how to cope with the crush:
- Get to SeaTac early. At least two hours early, even for a domestic flight, recommends the airport.
- Remember that any of the TSA checkpoints at Sea-Tac will let you get to any of the departure gates. So look for the shortest line. If you’re with more than one person, divide up to check the security lines then phone each other and head to the shortest one. See the checkpoint locations here.
- Some of the busiest times are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. when a lot of Alaska flights leave (Alaska is the biggest carrier at SeaTac). For your peace of mind, allow even more than two hours to get through the ticket counter/baggage check/security lines at such times. If you’re really early, you can always get a snack or shop by the gates.
- Avoid at least one airport line by printing your boarding pass at home and travel with a carry-on bag only. That lets you skip the airline/baggage check-in and go straight to the security line.
- If you’re going from Seattle to Hawaii on a non-stop Alaska Airlines flight, and need to check a suitcase, you can use the airline’s baggage self-tagging which you do online from home along with Web check-in. It could save you some time at the airport.
- If you have one of the federally-issued “trusted traveler” cards, such as Nexus, or if you can get the TSA PreCheck status on your flight, you can go to a special, faster-clearance lane at the TSA checkpoints.
Have you been stuck in the Sea-Tac security lines this week? Add a comment below and I’ll highlight them in another post.