TSA Seattle advises public to be prepared for busiest summer travel season on record at Sea-Tac Airport

Local Press Release
Friday, June 14, 2019

SEATTLE - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Seattle is prepared for what is projected to be the busiest summer travel season every when a record number of passengers will depart Seattle-Tacoma International Airport between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

TSA continues to advise passengers departing Sea-Tac Airport to arrive at least two hours prior to their scheduled flight departure in order to have time to park, check baggage, complete the security screening process and arrive at their gate. Since airlines routinely begin boarding flights 40 minutes prior to departure time, arrive early is key.

Nationally, TSA is projecting a 4% year-over-year increase in the number of travelers screened between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. TSA has already experienced its busiest day ever on Friday, May 24, 2019, when it screened 2,795,000 travelers. It anticipates setting additional single day records throughout the summer. Nine of the top 10 busiest weeks in TSA’s history occurred during the 2018 summer season.

Locally, TSA projects it will screen more than 6.8 million travelers this summer, a 5% increase over 2018 summer levels when 6.5 million travelers were screened at Sea-Tac Airport. Last summer, TSA’s passenger screening volume ranked 12th out of 427 airports nationwide.

Two of TSA’s busiest days ever at Sea-Tac Airport occurred last summer. On Friday, August 10, 2018, TSA screened a record 73,002 travelers. The second busiest day ever was Friday, June 22, 2018, when TSA screened 72,912 travelers.

“The Puget Sound region’s popularity as a business and vacation destination will lead to a record number of passengers going through the security checkpoint this summer,” said Jeff Holmgren, TSA federal security director for Washington. “Despite the surge in travelers, we are committed to ensuring that our security operations are carried out in the most effective and efficient way.”

Passenger volumes will begin to build starting Friday, June 14, 2019, when more than 68,000 people are projected to be screened. High passenger volumes will remain throughout the summer.

The busiest days for TSA at Sea-Tac are projected to be Fridays and Mondays followed by Thursdays and Sundays. The busiest times each day will be 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., with the highest volume of travelers coming to the security checkpoint from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and again 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. This is due to a concentrated number of flight departures during this period. Mid-afternoons and evenings will be busy, too.

The increase in the number of departing travelers is driven by a growing cruise ship industry in Seattle, an increased number of flights, new airlines serving Sea-Tac Airport, new destinations and larger aircraft for some flights.

In preparation for the surge in summer travelers, TSA Seattle hosted monthly recruitment and hiring events starting late last fall. It also secured a pay raise for local TSA officers (TSOs). TSA will utilize overtime to extend the shifts of TSOs and it has converted existing part-time employees to full-time status.

TSA Seattle will make every effort to staff all lanes in the security checkpoints during peak departure times in an effort to reduce security wait times. However, every day this summer, there will be intervals when the number of departing travelers exceeds the capacity of the checkpoints even with all lanes open, making it essential that travelers arrive early and prepared.

TSA will continue to use Passenger Screening Canines in and around security checkpoints as an additional layer of security. The canines are trained to detect explosives, which are the greatest threat to commercial aviation. TSA constantly evaluates its security posture and makes modifications to procedures to address an evolving threat and keep the traveling public secure.

While TSA concentrates on aviation security, passengers can assist by coming to the airport prepared. Here are some helpful travel tips to make the security checkpoint experience go smoothly this summer and throughout the year:

  • Unpack your bag before you pack it – at home. By unpacking your bag fully and re-packing it before coming to the airport, you will avoid bringing items to the airport that are prohibited in carry-on luggage. This includes knives; stun guns; self-defense and martial arts items. Use the “What Can I Bring” feature at TSA.gov to help determine if an item is allowed in a carry-on bag or if it needs to be checked.
  • Dress for security screening. Simplify your screening experience by wearing slip-on shoes and avoid bulky jewelry and clothing, scarves, hair accessories and large belt buckles. These types of items may require additional screening. Remember to remove all items from your pockets - including cell phones - and secure them in your carry-on bag.
  • Standard screening preparation. In the standard screening lanes, non-TSA Pre✓® lanes, organize your carry-on bag so electronics larger than a cell phone can be quickly and easily accessed when at the security checkpoint. All electronic devices larger than a cell phone should be placed in bins for X-ray screening with nothing on top or below. Common examples of these devices include laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles. Also, in the standard screening lanes, remove your bag of travel-size liquids, gels and aerosols.
  • TSA Pre✓® screening preparation. TSA operates dedicated TSA Pre✓® lanes at checkpoints 1 (south end of airport) and 4 (north end of airport). When screened through a TSA Pre✓® lane, there is no need to remove any items from your carry-on luggage. In addition, you do not need to remove your shoes, belts and light jackets.
  • All gates from all checkpoints. Travelers departing Sea-Tac Airport can get to any location in the airport from any security checkpoint, regardless of airline or assigned departure gate. Airport personnel will redirect passengers as needed and TSA will adjust staffing to best handle passenger flow.
  • Enroll in TSA Pre✓®. It is not too late to enroll in TSA Pre✓® and enjoy the benefits of a streamlined security process at airports nationwide this summer. Need another reason to enroll? In May 2019, 92% of travelers screened through a TSA Pre✓® lane waited five minutes or less to be screened through the security checkpoint. There are multiple enrollment centers in the Puget Sound region - including one on-site at Sea-Tac Airport. Learn more at tsa.gov/precheck.
  • AskTSA on social media. Question about what you can bring through the security checkpoint? Tweet or Facebook Message AskTSA weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PDT and weekends and holidays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. PDT.