Washington State lawmakers call for temporary canine teams at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
As the spring tourism season looms, members of Washington State’s congressional delegation called on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Monday to deploy five temporary passenger screening canine teams to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac).
In a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske, the lawmakers noted that passenger screening wait times have “increased significantly” in recent months. Last week, just 63 percent of travelers passed through Sea-Tac checkpoints in under 20 minutes, which is the airport’s customer service goal.
“Currently, the airport only has five TSA passenger screening canines, and it could be months until additional permanent dogs are ready to be put into service. Meanwhile, March is the start of the busy spring travel season at Sea-Tac, and has historically been one of the most difficult times of year for congestion at screening checkpoints,” the letter stated. “With that in mind, Sea-Tac needs temporary canine teams now before the problem continues to get worse.
Sea-Tac has a $22.5 billion economic impact on the state, the lawmakers wrote, but that tourism activity is “highly dependent on the airport providing reliable customer service, security, and convenience that travelers demand.”
“The Port of Seattle is doing its part by investing millions of dollars in efforts to increase checkpoint efficiency by facilitating the pre-screening process, and they need more canine resources to complement their work to address this problem,” the letter concluded. “Checkpoint efficiency is critical to keeping lines moving, and Sea-Tac estimates that checkpoints with a canine are able to process 245 passengers per hour, compared to just 140 passengers per hour without a canine.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).