Sea-Tac Airport explains what led to 2.5 hour security lines that stretched to the parking garage

Sep 21, 2022, 6:56 PM
Photo from KIRO 7

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is apologizing for the abnormally long security lines last Sunday, which stretched into the Sea-Tac parking garage.

The airport says it was a combination of unexpectedly high numbers of end-of-summer travelers, not enough Transportation Security Administration officers to meet the demand, and construction taking two lanes offline. More passengers went through security between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday than any other morning of the pandemic, according to a Port of Seattle blog post.

Passengers reported waiting more than two-and-a-half hours in line, and many missed their flights.

Sea-Tac security breach causes delay, grounds flights for 40 minutes

Port of Seattle spokesperson Perry Cooper said traditionally, summer travel starts to go down in September — and that’s what they had counted on this year.

“We would normally see about a 15% drop after Labor Day, and in the last few weeks we are not seeing that,” he said.

He believes this change is due to the pandemic, as people are eager to get out on trips again, no matter the season.

“With the pandemic, we’re seeing a bit of a changing dynamic in the travel trends … Even though we haven’t had a lot of business traffic come back, which is what we typically see in the fall, we’ve still got a lot of that leisure traffic that just wants to get out and travel,” he said.

Sea-Tac TSA had brought on extra security staffers from around the country for the summer, but this program ended after Labor Day, in anticipation of the tourism high season coming to a close.

“As they came to the end of Labor Day, which is typically when we would see our traffic go down, then those plans were to have those folks go back to the airports where they normally work,” Cooper explained.

However, passenger Ray Pardo, who said he waited three hours in the security line Sunday before his flight to Atlanta, believes the airport and TSA should have known to expect this late-summer boom in passengers.

“The data — the number of people arriving at Sea-Tac — had to be available from the airlines … because the airlines have sold the tickets, so they knew we were coming,” Pardo said. “The fact that that left hand is not talking to the right hand, I think, is a little concerning.”

Pardo said he blames the airport, TSA, and the airlines equally, and believes it comes down to a lack of communication among the three groups.

“The airlines and TSA and Sea-Tac management have got to be a lot closer in comparing volumes expected,” he said.

Cooper said that the airlines routinely provide TSA and Sea-Tac with an idea of passenger volumes ahead of time.

“They’ll get projections up to two weeks in advance,” he said, adding, “We work together as a team to try and figure out where some of those high-end pieces will be, when some of that will happen, so you try and plan ahead of time as far as you can for your best use of your folks.”

He said they were anticipating 59,000 passengers for Sunday, which is comparable to busy summer days. When asked why more TSA agents were not brought on for the weekend when those projections were out ahead of time, Cooper said this was a question for TSA, as they determine their own staffing levels.

TSA did not answer this question when asked in an email by KIRO Newsradio.

Future weekends will see things done differently. Cooper said they are already planning to have extra TSA officers this coming Saturday and Sunday.

“That is something that they’ve been working on, and they will have more staffing here this weekend,” he said.

In an email, TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers said they would work to prevent another scenario like this past Sunday.

“Based on departing passenger projections, we will continue to ensure that we have TSA officers in place through staffing options available to TSA including the use of overtime to extend the shifts of TSA officers during peak times to ensure we can cover breaks and lunches for our hardworking employees,” Dankers wrote.

Local News

Ted Buehner

Dry summers delay changes in leaves, but brilliant autumn colors around the corner

This sunny dry weather is expected to continue through Columbus Day Weekend, providing more unseasonably warm weather for enjoying fall hues.
23 hours ago
Hanna Scott

No timeline for Office of Independent Investigations use of force cases to begin

“The new Office of Independent Investigation will increase transparency and trust in investigations of deadly uses of force by law enforcement."
23 hours ago
Nicole Jennings

Postseason baseball within reach for Mariners, starved fans

With playoffs closer than ever, Mariners fans await tonight's results with baited breath
23 hours ago
Hanna Scott

Report discovers troubling gap between BIPOC, white homeowners in Washington state

More than 143,000 BIPOC households would need to become homeowners to close the gap between white and BIPOC households in Washington.
23 hours ago
Sam Campbell

Edmonds high school student arrested for bringing ‘ghost gun’ to school

Edmonds Police Department (EDP) thanking the vigilance of one student who they say spoke up when they knew a fellow 15-year-old student brought a loaded gun to class at Edmonds-Woodway High School Thursday.
23 hours ago
Photo from KIRO 7...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Olympia woman facing fines over ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign inside her home

An Olympia woman is being threatened with fines over a sign hanging inside her home.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Sea-Tac Airport explains what led to 2.5 hour security lines that stretched to the parking garage