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U.S. senators say wait times ‘unacceptably long’ at Sea-Tac security checkpoints

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SEATTLE-TACOMA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Wash. -- The annual "spring break" travel rush is under way, which you probably noticed if you flew through Sea-Tac Monday.

“I’ve seen a lot of young kids going through the airport,” says Michael Felion.

A lot of families are traveling this week, which is leading to longer-than-normal lines to get through security. The airport is advising passengers this week to arrive two hours early, to make sure they make their flights.

Shelley Barnhill says she doesn’t like to cut it close.

“It’s just not worth it, because then you're running and running and you can't predict how long the lines will be.”

Katherine Cleland applied for TSA Pre-Check last year, so she wouldn’t have to worry about getting through security on days like this.

“The lines were just getting longer and unpredictable,” she says. “With TSA Pre-Check, I get through the lines usually in about 20 minutes predictably. I have lots of times on the other side and it totally reduces the stress of travel.”

The airport’s managing director says what would really reduce the stress for passengers is to have more TSA officers, but there’s a shortage nationwide.

“What we want to do is have all our security checkpoints open during peak times,” says Lance Lyttle. “We have 32 lanes and if we could get all those lanes open during peak, we would not have this problem.”

On Monday, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both D-Wash., sent a letter to the TSA administrator asking for help. They say one day last week, more than 100 Sea-Tac passengers missed their flights because of long security lines. They’re concerned the problem will get even worse as we get into the busy summer months.

“Last year we had 12.9% growth. We are the fastest-growing large airport in the United States,” says Lyttle. “So we really need to have the resources to accommodate and facilitate this growth you're seeing here.”

The senators are asking the TSA to allow for some officers to be trained locally, so they can start working before the summer travel season. Normally, officers are trained at the TSA headquarters in Georgia, but there is currently a backlog at that site.

Sea-Tac has hired 90 contract workers to take care of line management and exit control, so TSA officers can focus solely on screening passengers and bags.