TSA provides Thanksgiving travel outlook for Sea-Tac Airport

Local Press Release
Thursday, November 21, 2019

SEATTLE - Officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Thursday that they are prepared for an 4% increase in travelers departing Sea-Tac Airport in the days leading up to and immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday.

At airports across the country, TSA projects it will screen a record breaking number of flyers this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel period. An estimated 26.8 million people will go through security checkpoints from Friday, Nov. 22 through Monday, Dec. 2. This is a 4% increase over 2018 Thanksgiving holiday travel volumes.

For the past few years, TSA nationally has noticed a marked change in Thanksgiving travel patterns and that trend is expected to continue this year. Instead of waiting for the day before Thanksgiving to travel, people are beginning their travels the week prior to Thanksgiving and many people have planned their return travel on the Sunday or Monday after Thanksgiving.  

The travel pattern at Sea-Tac is no different. TSA projects that the holiday rush will begin Friday, Nov. 22 when more than 55,000 departing travelers will be screened through the security checkpoints that day. The next surge in travelers will occur Tuesday, Nov. 26 when projections show that more than 57,000 people will be screened. Wednesday, Nov 27 will be the busiest day of the holiday travel period when TSA predicts it will screen more than 64,000 departing passengers. The lightest travel day of the holiday period will be Thanksgiving Day when approximately 40,000 people are expected to depart Sea-Tac Airport.

Current projections show that departing passenger volumes will pick up again on Sunday, Dec. 1 when TSA will screen at least 60,000 people through the security checkpoints, making it the second busiest day of the Thanksgiving travel season. TSA predicts Monday, Dec. 2 will be busy, too, with more than 57,000 departing passengers expected.

To prepare for the increase in travel volumes, TSA will utilize overtime to extend the shifts of its Transportation Security Officers. It 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, there may be intervals when the number of departing travelers exceeds the capacity of the checkpoints even when all lanes are open, making it essential that travelers arrive early and prepared.

Below are some helpful travel tips to make the security checkpoint experience go smoothly during the holidays – and throughout the year:

  • Know what to expect at the airport. The busiest times at the security checkpoint 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 also be busy.
  • Arrive early. During the peak holiday travel rush, arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your flight departure to ensure adequate time for every step of the airport travel process including being screened through the security checkpoint. By arriving early, you should arrive at your gate with time to spare.
  • Any gate from any checkpoint. Travelers departing Sea-Tac Airport can get to any gate from any security checkpoint. Go to the one that is most convenient for you.
  • TSA PreCheck. TSA operates two security checkpoints dedicated to TSA PreCheck screening. Travelers eligible for TSA PreCheck should go to checkpoint 1 or 4.  
  • Traveling with foods. Baked goods and other solid foods are allowed in carry-on luggage. This includes breads, cookies, candies and meats. However, jams, jellies, sauces, gravies or other liquids need to be in quantities of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less to travel in your carry-on. Any quantities larger than 3.4 ounces should be placed in checked baggage.
  • Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. Wrapped items are screened just like any other item. If a wrapped item alarms the security screening technology in carry-on or checked luggage, a TSA officer may have to unwrap it to determine what the item is. Consider traveling with unwrapped items or placing them in a gift bag for easy access and resolution.
  • Dress for security screening. Simplify your experience by avoiding bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories and large belt buckles since these types of items are likely to require additional screening. Remember to remove all items from your pockets and secure them in your carry-on bag before being screened at the security checkpoint.
  • AskTSA on social media. Question about what you can bring through the security checkpoint? Tweet or Message AskTSA weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST and weekends and holidays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST.
  • Call TSA Cares. Travelers or families of travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint as well as to arrange for assistance at the checkpoint. It is recommended to call at least 72 hours prior to traveling to ensure TSA can provide the assistance that is needed.

As a reminder, public awareness is a critical element of our security efforts. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities. Remember: “If You See Something, Say Something™.”