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Dori Monson

Sea-Tac Airport to consider dropping TSA for private security

Millions of dollars could be spent to speed up the lines at Sea-Tac airport. (Eric Mandel, MyNorthwest)

Pressure mounted on the Transportation Security Administration Wednesday to fix long lines at Sea-Tac when the airport director told KIRO 7 he is considering all options, including replacing the TSA with private security contractors.

“It’s really a sign of us looking outside the box,” Lance Lyttle said. “We have a problem and we can’t operate the same way and expect different results.”

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Lyttle said no decisions have been made and that the idea is still in the exploratory stage.

Lyttle said airport workers will visit other airports with private security, like San Francisco, and hold a roundtable for Seattle port commissioners about how it works.

Wait times at Sea-Tac now reach an hour during peak periods, and Senator Maria Cantwell’s office says a thousand passengers missed flights in March.

Cantwell is also upping pressure on the agency.

Along with Senator Patty Murray, Cantwell sent a letter to the head of the agency on Monday objecting to excessive wait times.

On Wednesday, Cantwell got TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger to agree to train new security officers locally rather than send them to a training center in Georgia, a move that airport officials estimate will speed the process of bringing new hires online by as much as four weeks.

Airport officials say TSA staffing is the root of the problem.

Of the 32 security lanes at Sea-Tac, 17 or 19 of them are open. On the busiest day, 21 are open.

Lyttle said TSA K-9’s greatly improve the flow of passengers through checkpoints, improving the flow in a line from about 130 people per hour to 200.

The dogs check for explosives while people are in line, which means passengers can move quicker through screening.

Lyttle said dogs are only available for the busiest times at the airport, including the early morning rush.

Neffenger told a Senate committee he plans to visit Sea-Tac next week.

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

  • Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.


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