‘Worse than Disney World’: Sea-Tac wait times go over an hour amid busy Memorial Day travel weekend

SEATAC, Wash. — Wait times for security checkpoints at SEA reached 65 to 70 minutes on Friday, as tens of thousands of travelers descended on the airport for Memorial Day weekend.

The Port of Seattle estimates, 171,000 passengers arrived, departed, or connected Friday through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The day before, there were roughly 10,000 fewer travelers.

Officials say, compared to Memorial Day Weekend 2022, passenger volume is up roughly 20 percent. They report the traffic this weekend is almost at pre-pandemic levels, much more like in 2019.

Wait times for TSA PreCheck were listed at around 20 minutes, which many travelers were surprised about.

“Walking, walking, and walking. It’s like a maze,” Hajontaie, who is traveling to Hawaii, said while waiting in a TSA PreCheck line. “It’s like a maze.”

According to a TSA spokesperson, the longest-recorded wait time for TSA PreCheck was 19 minutes.

Hajontaie said it felt more like 40 minutes because he factored in the time it took to find his line, which was one of several lines moving and shifting as more travelers arrived at SEA.

“It’s like a bad snake in your yard. You just don’t want to try and track it down. It’s not fun, man,” he said.

These shifts happen at the endpoints of lines, which can change when more travelers pack the airport.

The size of SEA is significantly smaller compared to other international airports, so workers have to change the endpoints of lines for crowd control and safety.

Some travelers visiting from out of town remarked to KIRO 7′s Lauren Donovan, about the airport’s capacity for crowds of this scale.

“I would say for the volume of people coming through here, it is a little congested,” said Florida-bound Bo Parker.

Last September, security lines at SEA reached 150 minutes, with lines wrapping inside the parking garage.

“I appreciate everyone working right now, during the holidays. It’s not easy,” Hajontaie said.

“It is worse than getting to Disney World,” Gladys, who was flying back home to Florida, said on Friday. “You think you’re at the end of the line, and then there’s three or four more.”

Travelers we spoke with at SEA were there during peak hours.

According to a TSA spokesperson, peak hours for Friday, May 26, 2023, were expected at:

  • 5 a.m. - 8 a.m.
  • 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
  • 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Here are some tips to make sure you reach your destination.

The golden rule for traveling this Memorial Day weekend: leave early and pack your patience.

On Friday, one lane in a security checkpoint was forced to temporarily shut down because a possible firearm was found in a carry-on, according to TSA.

It ended up being an Airsoft gun, but anything even resembling a firearm will cause a lane to shut down so law enforcement can investigate.

It’s also a reminder to make sure you don’t bring any prohibited items through security checkpoints, as even a few minutes of a lane closure can cause wider consequences across security checkpoints.