TSA prepared for end-of-summer and Labor Day weekend at SEA and nationally

Local Press Release
Thursday, August 31, 2023

SEATTLE - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates more than 365,000 people will be screened through security checkpoints at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) during the Labor Day weekend travel period, which begins Friday, September 1 and runs through Wednesday, September 6. With sustained high passenger volumes, officials with TSA are encouraging travelers to plan ahead and be prepared for every step of the air travel experience.

Since Memorial Day, TSA has screened an average of more than 2.4 million people per day at more than 430 airports nationwide. The Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday weekends set records for the number of people screened and Labor Day is shaping up to be busy as well. Across the country, TSA expects to screen 14.25 million passengers and crew between Friday, September 1, 2023, and Wednesday, September 6, 2023, which is an 11% increase over last year. Historical national checkpoint screening statistics are available at www.tsa.gov/travel/passenger-volumes

Since the summer travel period kicked off on Thursday, May 25, TSA at SEA has screened more than 5.5 million people, which is an average of about 62,000 people per day. TSA at SEA set an all-time record for number of people screened on Monday, July 24 when 73,651 went through the security checkpoints. On Friday, June 20, leading into the Fourth of July weekend, TSA at SEA screened 70,984 people in a single day.

“As predicted, the summer travel season at SEA has been very busy. I am grateful for the commitment of our TSA officers who have worked hard every day to deliver a high level of security in the most efficiency manner,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Washington Greg Hawko. “If you are traveling this Labor Day weekend, please take a few minutes to sure that you are prepared for the security screening process.”

Security checkpoint info
The busiest times at SEA’s security checkpoints are 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. with the single busiest hour occurring at 10 a.m. During this time, departing travelers can expect to see sustained high volumes at the airport. The next wave of high travel volumes occurs at 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays. Tuesday, September 5 is expected to be busy as holiday weekend travelers return home.

TSA strives to get travelers through the general security screening process in less than 30 minutes and through TSA PreCheck screening in less than 10 minutes. Due to high departing travel volumes at SEA, there will be periods during the day when the number of passengers who need to be screened exceeds the capacity of the checkpoints.

To help with the efficiency of the screening operation, travelers may see the agency’s explosive detection canines working to expedite the screening of standard passengers. TSA will supplement the workforce with TSA officers from the agency’s National Deployment Force. TSA is also utilizing the security checkpoint at the new International Arrivals Facility during peak times to increase the number of lanes available to screen departing travelers.

Currently, this is the type of screening that is available at each of SEA’s security checkpoints:

Checkpoint 1: TSA PreCheck® screening only | operational from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m.
travel tips
Checkpoint 2, 3 and 5: General screening lanes

Checkpoint 4: TSA PreCheck® screening only | operational from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m.

International Arrivals Facility: Used as needed. Travelers will be directed to that checkpoint during peak times.

There will be days when additional screening options may be made available at some checkpoints. However, this availability will be based on staffing and the number of travelers projected to depart SEA on any given day. TSA will consistently offer TSA PreCheck screening at the security checkpoints 1 and 4.

Changes to TSA PreCheck screening
TSA PreCheck expedites a traveler’s airport security checkpoint screening process and allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their travel size liquids, gels and aerosols in a carry-on. More than 15 million people nationwide have enrolled in TSA PreCheck and regularly enjoy the expedited screening process when they travel.

Previously, children 12 and under have been permitted to use the TSA PreCheck lane when traveling with an eligible parent or guardian on the same itinerary. Effective immediately, teenagers aged 13-17 can now accompany TSA PreCheck enrolled parents or guardians through TSA PreCheck screening when traveling on the same reservation and when the TSA PreCheck indicator appears on the teen’s boarding pass.

On average, 99% of TSA PreCheck-eligible travelers waited 10 minutes or less to be screened through the security checkpoint during the month of July. TSA PreCheck enrollment is offered at multiple locations in the Puget Sound area. Begin the pre-enrollment process online at www.tsa.gov/precheck.

End-of summer travel tips
Travelers have the ability to impact the efficiency of the airport travel experience. Because there is no substitute for being prepared, TSA recommends the following:

Pack smart. Travelers should be aware of the contents of their carry-on bags prior to leaving home. Ensure that carry-ons do not contain prohibited items since they slow down the security screening process. TSA is reminding all travelers that fireworks don’t fly - in carry-on or checked luggage. Fireworks are never allowed on an aircraft, so please don’t bring them to the airport. In addition, fuel canisters frequently used by campers and other outdoor enthusiasts are flammable and not allowed in carry-on or checked luggage.

To determine whether an item is allowed or prohibited in carry-on luggage, download the MyTSA app and use the “What Can I Bring?” feature. Another option is to snap a picture of an item and send it to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger for real-time assistance. Travelers can also send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).

Wear shoes that are easy to remove and put back on. Shoes that lace up and extend up your leg will slow you down. Slip-on shoes are best. And, do yourself a favor: wear socks!

Use your time wisely in the security checkpoint queue. Have your photo ID ready. Don’t wait until you approach the TSA officer who is checking IDs to look for it. Empty your pockets prior to arrival in the checkpoint. Place wallets, phones, keys, sunglasses and other loose items from your pockets inside your carry-on bag instead of placing them in a bin. This will ensure personal items are not left behind.

Listen for guidance from TSA officers. Whether you travel regularly or infrequently, it is important to listen to the direction provided in the security checkpoint. SEA has security screening technologies in use that may allow travelers not to present a boarding pass during the travel document checking process or leave all items in their carry-on luggage as it is screened through the X-ray unit. Listen up – it may make for a more streamlined, convenient and time-saving passenger experience.

Follow the rule for traveling with liquids. Sunscreen, creams, bug spray and other liquids and aerosols are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less in carry-on luggage. If a traveler brings liquids in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces, TSA will have to conduct a bag check, which slows the screening process for that traveler and everyone in line behind them. Any liquids in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces should travel in checked baggage.

Eligible for TSA PreCheck? Enter your Known Traveler Number (KTN). Be sure that your airline reservation has your correct KTN and date of birth so you can “Travel with Ease.” Those who fly with multiple airlines should ensure their KTN is updated in each of their airline profiles every time you travel. TSA offers the TSA PreCheck experience at every airport nationwide, so this is a guaranteed way to save time and have a more convenient experience.

Do not joke about having an explosive device. Stating the obvious, don’t claim that you’ve have a bomb with you. The next thing you know, you will have a serious conversation with airport law enforcement, likely miss your flight and potentially much worse!