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Navigating Security in 20 Minutes or Less

December 14, 2018

You can do a lot in 20 minutes. The latest ab workout. Wait for a pizza delivery. Walk a mile. Enjoy a fancy coffee. Catch up with a friend. And Sea-Tac Airport knows that waiting in security checkpoint lines is probably not at the top of that list. So "20 minutes or less" is our goal for getting you through TSA passenger screening checkpoints at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac).

Sea-Tac and TSA are working together to meet the shorter-than-20-minute goal.

Now, the first thing you need to know about the checkpoints at Sea-Tac is that they’re run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — they’re the federal agency in charge of airport security screening since September 11, 2001. At Sea-Tac Airport, the TSA defines how many agents are working at any given time, which checkpoint lanes are open, and whether or not you have to take off your shoes.  

At Sea-Tac, about half of all passengers use TSA Pre✓® checkpoints and most of the other 50 percent use general screening or CLEAR lanes. To serve passengers during our peak periods, TSA typically operates between 17-23 lanes for general screening and between 8-9 lanes to screen TSA Pre✓ travelers.  

The Port of Seattle is helping the TSA be as successful as possible by focusing on resources, technology and customer service.


In terms of resources, we have a strong partnership with the Washington Congressional delegation who helps us get as many TSA staff at Sea-Tac Airport as possible. One great example of this collaboration was over the summer when — thanks in large part to US Senator Maria Cantwell’s efforts — the TSA sent extra passenger screening canines, TSA trainers to help their new hires get to work faster, and even a special “National Deployment Force” of extra TSA agents who were flown into town to work security. Congressional engagement also helped convince TSA to institute recruitment and retention bonuses for TSA agents, which is important to keeping those jobs filled in the booming Seattle-area economy.


Harnessing technology to speed you through the lines is also part of the Port’s strategy. The Port has invested in installing new "automated screening lanes" (ASL) at two of our checkpoints, which allow multiple passengers to place their baggage on the security screening conveyor belts at the same time. These are in operation at Checkpoint 5, and newly installed at Checkpoint 2. See a video demonstration of the ASL.

You may have also seen some of our automated exit doors when you’re leaving from Concourse B, which free up TSA agents to work security lines rather than sitting at an exit.

Technology can also help you find the shortest checkpoint lines; download the Sea-Tac App to find current wait times at each security checkpoint.  

Customer Service

Finally, Sea-Tac Airport now has a new Customer Experience Department, which is doing everything from training our staff, to helping you navigate the security lines more efficiently, to coordinating more closely with TSA on their daily staffing plan. You may have noticed recent changes to the operation of our checkpoints — like operating Checkpoint 1 full time as a TSA Pre✓ checkpoint — which is partly the result of some lengthy and detailed conversations between the Port and TSA. We’re also increasing signage and installing electronic monitors with wait times updates to help you navigate by yourself. If you do need help, check with the Pathfinders in the teal jackets when you arrive and they will direct you to the shortest line.

As of December 2018, passengers can expect screening services at:
•    12-17 general screening lanes 
•    8-9 TSA Pre✓ and CLEAR lanes 

Checkpoint #1:  
•    4:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. TSA Pre✓ and CLEAR only 

Checkpoint #2:  
•    4:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. General Screening, Premium, and CLEAR 

Checkpoint #3:  
•    4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. for CLEAR 
•    24 hours General Screening, Premium, and CLEAR 

Checkpoint #4:  
•    4:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. TSA Pre✓ and CLEAR only 

Checkpoint #5: 
•    4:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. General Screening, Premium, and CLEAR 

With record-setting daily passenger volumes happening regularly these days at Sea-Tac, we are working hard to make sure that long security lines aren’t your first or most lasting impression of your airport. Ensuring your safety convenience and security when you’re traveling to the airport is our very first priority. Take a look at our holiday travel tips during this busy travel season. With all the great new dining and retail options, we know you will find a better way to spend your time at the airport than waiting in line. 

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