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“No Touch” Tech Landing to Aid Travel at SEA Airport

Pilot programs modernize airport experience with virtual queuing for general screening security checkpoints and tap-free airline check-in kiosks
May 4, 2021
SEA Spot Saver is now a permanent program at the airport. This free program enables you to make a reservation for the TSA general screening security line. RSVP to save your spot in line up to 72 hours before travel for flights.

Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) is innovating with seamless, touchless travel to improve ease and wellness at the airport. Two pilot programs are testing ways to modernize the passenger experience with SEA Spot Saver, which explores digital reservations for the TSA general screening security checkpoints, and happyhover™,  a technology deployed to airline check-in kiosks for travelers to check in and drop off luggage without touching the electronic screens.

“We can use technology to make the travel experience more streamlined and intuitive,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Sam Cho. “Touchless solutions reduce stress for those traveling today, but are the kind of innovations that will make the airport safer and more efficient for years to come. We appreciate the partnership of passengers and airlines to help test these programs for the benefit of our community.”

Busy terminal showing long lines. SEA Airport April 2021SEA is one of the first airports in the U.S. to investigate a “virtual queuing” system as a solution for crowded general screening lines. Called SEA Spot Saver, it is a free, reservation-based system for TSA general screening security checkpoints. The pilot program will test if SEA Spot Saver successfully reduces wait times and crowding to better maintain physical distancing.

The pilot will operate daily through August 31, 2021 at Checkpoints 2 and 5. The pilot will run from 4 a.m. to noon to reduce congestion during SEA’s peak morning travel period. During busy travel periods checkpoints can serve between 40-50 percent of daily passengers in the peak morning period before 11 a.m. Security screening zones are one of the most tightly constrained and consistently crowded areas of the airport.

SEA Spot Saver is free for all general screening passengers who are traveling without a trusted traveler program to help provide better screening experience and create efficiency where we have the highest demand. SEA Spot Saver allows passengers to arrive at the airport and experience contact-free, expedited screening without an extra cost, membership, or account. TSA PreCheck passengers should be screened at TSA Checkpoint 4 in order still use their PreCheck benefits such as not having to remove their shoes and electronics. All CLEAR customers can go to their dedicated lane at each security checkpoint as well to have their expedited experience.

One experience is designed for Alaska Airlines passengers at TSA Checkpoint 5 with Pangiam, and powered by Whyline and Copenhagen Optimization. The second experience by VHT is available to Delta Air Lines and all other passengers at TSA Checkpoint 2.

“These are the innovations and ideas that we love to make our guest experiences more convenient and stress-free, especially as more people get back flying again,” said Charu Jain, Alaska’s senior vice president of merchandising and innovation. “With very little effort, guests can lean on technology to get them through the security process quicker.”

“Our vision for the future of travel is aimed at creating a more seamless, less stressful experience for all,” said Helda Durham, Delta’s Director of Airport Customer Service in SEA. “The SEA Spot Saver pilot does just that for Seattle customers, which is why we are excited to support our great partners at Port of Seattle and the TSA in their efforts.”

Spend more time doing what you need or want to outside of time waiting in line to explore our dining and retail options, access amenities, and have plenty of time to find your gate. Sign up for your appointment to save your spot in line, read FAQs, or learn more about SEA Spot Saver.

“Pangiam, Copenhagen Optimization, and Whyline are proud to be supporting the SEA Spot Saver Pilot Program and demonstrating our solution for checkpoint optimization, virtual queuing, and advanced reservations,” said Dan Tanciar, Chief Innovation Officer at Pangiam. “We are confident this pilot program will help reduce queue crowding, enable social distancing, and provide a smoother and safer experience for travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.”

“Virtual queueing showcases our belief in putting customers in control of their experiences,” says Matt DiMaria CEO of VHT. “While it offers passengers a sense of comfort and stability, it also grants airports the power of predictability and efficiency. It's truly a win-win for everyone.”

Following the pilot completion later this summer, we will evaluate usage with passengers, customer feedback, and increases to line efficiency. If successful, we hope to launch a broader program as the Port continues to use staffing and technology to make the security checkpoint experience as efficient as possible.

Moreover, SEA is evaluating a touchless technology with happyhover™ – where fingers are detected above an electronic screen – on common-use check-in kiosks available to various airline passengers, including jetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Korean Air, Volaris, Air Canada, and Frontier. With this pilot program, hardware is mounted discreetly onto the top of the kiosk and creates an infrared sheet of light. The technology emulates a touch interface in mid-air so that the touchscreen responds when the light is broken. This removes the need for travelers to touch superfluous surfaces during the check-in process. 

Reminders about tech solutions already at the airport!

  • Use Pre-Booked Parking to pay for SEA Airport parking online for a safe and contactless transaction prior to arrival. By booking in advance, save up to 25% on drive-up parking rates.
  • Download the flySEA App for checkpoint wait times, track your flight status, find a cup of coffee or navigate with step-by-step directions along the interactive map.
  • Most airlines at SEA have mobile apps that allow you to check in up to 24 hours before your flight and download the digital boarding pass to your phone. If you’re not packing a smartphone, SEA’s common-use check-in kiosks are an option to print your boarding without interacting with a customer service agent.
  • Some of our dining tenants offer these apps for mobile ordering. Most airport restaurants also offer contactless menus via QR codes that can be scanned onsite.
  • Beyond SEA Spot Saver, Trusted Traveler Programs allow for expeditated lines and moving through security with greater ease to limit interactions with others in queues.
  • Enjoy a faster, less stressful way through airport security with CLEAR or TSA PreCheck™. Download the U.S Customs and Border Protection Mobile Passport Control App to expedite your entry into the U.S. and speed you through customs.
  • Look for the hundreds of touchless hand sanitizer stations throughout the airport for your use – place your hands underneath the dispenser to keep your hands clean on the go.

The Next Norm

At SEA, we take a multi-layer approach to protecting you against COVID-19. That means it’s not just one measure of protection, but many tactics working together to keep you safe. To start, we required face coverings or masks, implemented physical distancing, and escalated cleaning. That expanded to offers we never anticipated at the airport like onsite COVID-19 testing for travelers and a vaccination clinic for airport workers.

The team at SEA, along with the broader aviation industry, are monitoring the next phase of healthy travel innovation. Some of that is already at SEA with the latest cleaning technologies such as a fleet of six self-driving machines that autonomously clean the floor, electrostatic sprayers, a mobile system that removes pathogens from the air, and UVC LED lighting that continuously disinfects escalator handrails.

We look forward to adding mobile food ordering in the coming months to optimize the customer experience and transactions in the terminal. Additionally, by expanding the Pre-Booked Parking system that is available now, there are future capabilities to create a one-stop-shop that make the airport experience easy and save passengers time. Future plans include integrating lounge passes and options for pre-purchasing from airport dining and retail businesses.

SEA’s innovation team is closely tuned to what is burgeoning in touchless technology from facial and voice recognition to health certifications like COVID-19 vaccine passports.


Perry Cooper | SEA Airport Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 |

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