The news will be welcomed by cruise lines and their passengers who fly through Sea-Tac in connection with Alaska sailings.
The action comes after long wait times have built up due to continued double-digit passenger growth and nationwide TSA staffing struggles due to budget restrictions. Washington’s US senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have recently pressed the TSA to find ways to help Sea-Tac, the nation’s fastest growing large hub airport for the last two years.
'These long lines are unacceptable and they’re happening even before our busy summer season,' said Port of Seattle commissioner Tom Albro. 'The port is stepping up to help travelers get through the airport as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are listening to our travelers and making up for TSA staff shortages.'
Areas where private contractors will be deployed include non-security customer service tasks such as bin loading (moving plastic tubs from one end of the screening lane to another), divesting (communicating to travelers what to remove from pockets and bags) and line management (moving travelers to shorter and faster checkpoints). The temporary hiring will last from May through September to cover the busiest travel season (June, July and August are the busiest months of the year at Sea-Tac). The additional staff is expected to be in place by May 1.
The contracted staffing will allow the TSA staff to focus solely on security and open more checkpoint lanes in order to gain higher passenger through put. Currently Sea-Tac has 32 screening lanes but the TSA only has staffing for 17 to 19 lanes.
In addition to the contracted staff, Port of Seattle security staff will temporarily take over duties at exit lanes to free up additional TSA staff for the checkpoints. The temporary staffing will be re-evaluated at the end of the summer travel season.
Sea-Tac airport had a 12.9% increase in passengers in 2015 and, through February, passenger totals were up 9% compared to the prior year. It is recommended travelers arrive two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours early for international travel.