Travel experts, airport officials offer advice on avoiding delays

SEATTLE — The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is expecting its busiest day of the Thanksgiving travel rush on Wednesday, and there are plenty of services—including a free one—that can cut down delays for travelers.

“I have Clear because it saves me a lot of time,” frequent flyer Hamza Raja said.

“We’re on Clear,” traveler Duane Vilandre said, “because we travel quite a bit.”

Clear works at any checkpoint at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, at any time.

Travelers can start registration online and finish at a Clear kiosk at the airport, where their eyes are scanned. Clear representatives will escort them to the front of the line. It’s $189 a year, but the main person can add up to 3 people to their membership for $60 each.

SEA Spot Saver is a free program that allows a traveler to reserve a spot in line at Checkpoints 2, 3 or 5 between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

They can schedule up to 72 hours beforehand (but not earlier) even up until the time they arrive at the airport. Online, a traveler enters their flight and contact information. Then, at their reserved appointment time, they go to the checkpoint and go through security.

“From 4 a.m. until 11 a.m. in the morning—that’s always our busiest time,” spokesperson Perry Cooper said. “If you’ve got a flight somewhere in that space and you’re concerned about making sure you get through the checkpoint, Spot Saver is a great place to do it.”

TSA PreCheck allows travelers to go through the screening process faster, including allowing them to keep their shoes on and their laptop and travel-sized liquids in their bags.

Travelers stand in a special PreCheck line, which is often shorter. This month, the TSA dropped its price from $85 to $78 for five years. People can apply online but finish with a background check and fingerprinting at an enrollment center.

Most people, according to the TSA, get approval notification in three to five days but it can take up to two months.

“I don’t rely on them,” travel agent Yumiko Sato, who owns Elizabeth Holmes Travel, said.

Sato said the programs can be nice, especially if a person flies a lot. But she leaves nothing to chance.

“When it comes to airports, I’m all about getting there way earlier than people think you should,” she said.

Her advice? Book a non-stop flight if you can; leave in the morning, when there are usually fewer delays; and embrace the longer layover if you do need to connect.

She also advises people to think of their airline when choosing where to have that layover. That can be crucial if your first flight gets there late.

“If you have to connect, think of what is their big hub, so that once you get there, you have many options,” Sato said.

She urges people to consider travel insurance just in case something goes wrong. Weather, she emphasizes, can be unreliable and wreak havoc during the holidays.

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