TSA lines stretching into parking garage at Sea-Tac

SEATTLE — When Pastor Jim Jacobson flew out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for a mission trip April 5, the security lines were so long, “I couldn’t believe the mayhem.”

He went looking for the end of the TSA line.

“When we were walking across the skybridge I was like, what is going on?”

The end of the line was in the parking garage and the wait for screening took an hour and a half.

“We got to the gate and they said ‘oh, you’ve got four minutes to spare,’” Jacobson said.

Spring break is bringing a surge of travelers to Sea-Tac, but TSA staffing is not keeping up.

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The airport has about thirty screening lanes, and as many as half of them have been closed.

Airport officials say lines have stretched to the parking garage at least three times in a week, including this weekend.

“The TSA people who are here and have been with us through the pandemic have done a great job,” said Perry Cooper of the Port of Seattle. “It’s just a matter that they need some more help.”

A TSA spokeswoman would not do an interview about the problems at SEA, instead writing that “we continue to actively adjust our workforce schedules.”

Nationally, the agency says it will hire 6,000 screeners.

“We want to be prepared for summer. We’re clearly taking a lot of efforts to make sure that happens,” the TSA’s Susan Tashiro told CNN.

The last time we saw lines into the Sea-Tac parking garage was 2019, during another TSA staffing crisis.

One reason they’re longer this time is the empty space between lines to encourage distancing.

What airport officials can’t control is how close people actually stand when they’re in the lines.

“People were not spaced out, not at all, there was no six-foot distancing,” Jacobson said.

New numbers released Monday show that passenger volumes continue to keep rebound at Sea-Tac.

They’re now down just 34% from 2019.

So if you traveled earlier in the pandemic and sailed through security, don’t expect that to happen anymore.

In fact, people are urged to arrive two hours before a domestic flight.

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