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Sea-Tac’s record-setting travel season isn’t over yet

Two types of additional help at Sea-Tac this season were Pathfinders (left) and customer service workers (middle). (Port of Seattle)

Maybe it was the soothing live music, or the hordes of additional personnel. Either way, getting through Sea-Tac Airport this summer has been a lot faster than in the past. And even though summer is not over, the Port of Seattle already is calling it “record shattering.”

The large crowds are expected to continue over the coming Labor Day travel season. More than 2 million people will pass through Sea-Tac Airport over the next two weeks. And if things go as smoothly as they have so far, passengers won’t have to wait long in security lines.

Related: Travelers actually tried to bring these items through Sea-Tac security

Sea-Tac Airport changed things this season with multiple approaches to moving people through security. The ultimate goal was to speed things up in lines plagued with long wait times — sometimes exceeding well over an hour.

It worked. In June, the average wait times went down to 15-20 minutes. That was before record number crowd sizes peaked in July.

A team of 90 customer service personnel hired for the summer took over for operations that TSA agents were previously tasked with. This included preparing travelers for going through security checks prior to their turn in the body scanner. In turn, TSA agents were freed up to work at the checkpoints. It also meant that more checkpoints were open.

Sea-Tac also organized a team of volunteers to assist the customer services workers. At least 30 high school and college interns assisted TSA.

More traffic control staff was assigned to move drivers along at the concourse.

The airport is also touting that it changed its line configurations and made use of “live music performers near checkpoints to sooth travelers.”

Busy Sea-Tac summer

Any way you look at the numbers, Sea-Tac’s 2016 travel season proved to set even more records after five straight years of rising stats.

• July 2016 was busiest July in the airport’s history. Nearly 4.7 million passengers passed through.
• July 2016 had 300,000 more passengers at Sea-Tac than in July 2015 — a 6.5 percent increase.
• Domestic travel was up 6 percent, and international travel was up 12 percent from the previous July.
• In 2015, Sea-Tac saw a 12.9 percent increase in traveler levels over the previous year — a total of 42.3 million. That was after a seven percent increase between 2013-14.
• Sea-Tac is now the 13th largest domestic airport in the United States bases on passenger levels.

About the Author

Dyer Oxley

Dyer Oxley joined the MyNorthwest.com team in April 2015. He graduated from Portland State University and has worked as a reporter in the Puget Sound region since 2011. Email Dyer at roxley@mynorthwest.com

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