Massive backups at Sea-Tac airport

by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

At least one TSA checkpoint was closed as hundreds of people waited in line. An airport spokesman directed questions about TSA staffing to the agency, and the reason behind that checkpoint wasn’t immediately clear. (KIRO 7)

Nothing like starting your vacation by missing your flight. And more and more people are suffering that fate at Sea-Tac Airport.

Wednesday afternoon, some passengers reported security line delays of up to an hour and a half. The lines snaked through the airport, many passengers hissing, "This is nuts," one angry traveler from Connecticut said, "I'll say it, this is nuts. This is crazy absolutely crazy."

She was in the same line as Melissa Karmil, who was trying to catch a flight to Dallas for the second time today. The first time around didn't go so well.

"I missed it because of this," she said, gesturing to the hundreds of passengers at a standstill in line. She looked over at Security Gate 5, which -- in the middle of the rush -- is closed. It's evidence she thinks of who is to blame for this mess.

"Uh, the government," she says, "I think it's related to the sequester and budget cuts."

The Transportation Security Administration will not admit to that. In a release, it points to the beginning of a very busy summer travel season and to a lot of travelers who are not priming themselves to quickly move through security. They pack liquids that have to be taken out of their bags or take longer to remove shoes, belts and other things that have to go through scanners. The TSA would not comment on why one security gate was closed in the middle of the rush. They pointed out only that Gate 5 closes everyday at 1:30 p.m.

That makes no sense to another woman named Maria. She dropped her daughter off at Sea-Tac for a trip Sunday. She was stunned to see the lines then. Today, heading for her own trip, she was surprised to see the problem continued. "Oh my gosh, I told my husband, 'Where are all these people going to?'"

Some of them aren't going much of anywhere -- at least not as quickly as they anticipated. Alaska Airlines says it has had to rebook at least 150 passengers who missed their flights out of Sea-Tac because of the security delays. Other airlines are seeing similar problems.

Supida Sanders works for Horizon Air. When we caught up with her, she was timing how long it took to get through security. Her iPhone stop clock was at 28 minutes, 37 seconds and counting. She's seen plenty of people miss their flights.

"I just boarded a Seattle-Boise flight," she told us, "and I had about eight people miss the flight."

Another viewer tweeted us saying her flight attendant told her their flight was supposed to be booked, but there were several dozens seats still empty at take off -- likely people held up in security.

TSA agents working the lines say starting Sunday, the security backup have been backed up from early in the morning until about 4 p.m. One agent even slipped us a note saying they were told not to take any breaks because of the rush of travelers.

The only solid advice the airlines, the airport and the TSA can give you: allow yourself two hours cushion before your flight.

Vacation is going to take a little work.