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Security Screening 101

May 13, 2022

Editor's note: This was updated in 2023 to reflect the latest requirement date for Real ID implementation, and the latest hours for our Checkpoint programs.

It's finally here. That bucket list summer vacation that's gotten you through the seemingly endless PNW gray skies and rain. You've carefully prepared every detail of your trip and made sure to pack a swimsuit and sunscreen. You used public transit or rideshare to get to the airport, or gave yourself plenty of extra time to find parking in the SEA garage. Now you're finally ready to conquer the security checkpoints! The checkpoints may seem daunting, but with these tips and tricks, you'll sail through screening with plenty of time to relax or explore before your flight. 

#1 rule

  • Give yourself plenty of time! Arrive at the airport (not including transportation time to get here) two to three hours before your boarding time. Your boarding time is often 45 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time. Things don’t always go according to plan while traveling, so ensuring you have time on your side will help reduce stress and impacts on your travel plans. 

The basics 

  • You can access all gates from any checkpoint! Use these tips to pick the best checkpoint for you. Just know that whichever entrance you pick, you can get to your gate in any concourse! 
  • There are five main checkpoints at SEA Airport featuring general, premium, CLEAR, TSA PreCheck, and ADA-friendly screening. All checkpoints are ADA accessible. For additional assistance please contact TSA Cares 72 hours prior to your flight. 
  • Real ID is coming May 7, 2025 — Make sure you have the right kind of ID to fly! 
  • Not sure what you can and can’t bring through the checkpoints? See what you can bring and how! Being prepared for your screening is the best way to be on your way. For items not listed here, simply snap a picture or send a question to AskTSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter. TSA Reps will answer your questions between 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET on weekends and holidays. 

Checkpoints cheat sheet

Insider tips

  • Checkpoint operations and their hours are determined by TSA. The scheduled hours are listed on the SEA website, but they may vary depending on staffing and operational need. Learn more
  • If lines are longer at Checkpoints 2 and 5, SEA Airport staff will ask you to head to Checkpoint 3 as it has the most lanes and staff. Although the lines look longer, they generally move much faster. 
  • Check your boarding pass before heading to the screening lines! If you benefit from expedited screening like premium or TSA PreCheck, it will be displayed on your boarding pass. Be sure to go to the checkpoint and lane that corresponds with your program.  
  • SEA Visitor Pass is available for all people who want to go through security but are not flying that day! SEA Visitor Pass is available from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at TSA Checkpoint 3. 

Wait times 

  • Live checkpoint wait times for each checkpoint are published in five-minute increments and updated hourly. Wait times are approximate and may vary, but they are available on digital signage throughout the terminal. Or download the flySEA App for a rough estimate on how long it’ll take you to get through the queue.  
  • TSA’s best advice is to sign up for PreCheck! For additional locations and hours, go to the TSA's Enrollment Center Locator. Make your visit even quicker by applying online, here. Or see the other trusted traveler programs to see what works best for you!  

Be ID Ready

Different types of screening

  • General Screening is available at all non-PreCheck Checkpoints so 2, 3, and 5! SEA Spot Saver uses this line too. 
  • TSA PreCheck is only available at Checkpoints 1 and 4; you can only use these checkpoints if you have PreCheck. PreCheck helps to expedite the screening process for members of the Trusted Traveler Program. If the dedicated PreCheck lanes are closed, you can still show your TSA PreCheck status at a general checkpoint to expedite your entrance. 
  • Premium screening lanes are only available at Checkpoints 2 and 5 for passengers who are flying first or business class. If you’re eligible you will see it displayed on your boarding pass. 
  • CLEAR is a trusted traveler program that helps you skip the line completely at all checkpoints. The CLEAR team will escort you directly to the TSA ticket document checker. Customers who are CLEAR only cannot use TSA PreCheck designated checkpoints unless they also have PreCheck. 
  • SEA Spot Saver is free to use, but customers can reserve a time slot online for a designated checkpoint and line. SEA Spot Saver is currently available at Checkpoints 2, 3, and 5 from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 

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