Seattle-Tacoma International is the fastest-growing airport in the country, according to federal statistics. Its passenger volume grew by 7 percent in 2014 and 13 percent in 2015. Airport security had planned for 19 million passengers last year, leaving staff unprepared to deal with the 42 million passengers who traveled through Sea-Tac.
This huge increase in volume caused roughly 1,000 passengers to miss their flights in March, a figure that Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office calls “unacceptable.”
The senator asked TSA administrator Peter Neffenger to allow security officers to be trained locally in Washington, rather than requiring them to travel to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center headquarters in Georgia. Because the federal HQ has limited capacity, Sea-Tac has been unable to adequately staff up with additional security officers.
Neffenger accepted Cantwell’s request, which will allow SeaTac to bring on a larger security force, and keep more lanes open. The current training practices allow only 17-19 of the 32 available security lanes to be open during peak travel times.
Sea-Tac’s huge volume of passengers is just the latest chapter in the story of Seattle’s hyper-growth. The region faces challenges in everything from traffic to housing affordability. The boom is largely driven by the region’s thriving tech industry, which is adding jobs at a breakneck pace.
An influx of new residents may account for a large portion of Sea-Tac’s increased traffic, as transplants tend to have greater out-of-state travel needs. During the TSA hearing, Neffenger also touched on the need for better technology and intelligence sharing, to help streamline security.