New security measures at Sea-Tac

Catching an airplane used to be a breeze. Check the big bags at the curb, run carry-ons through an X-ray machine, get a boarding pass at the gate, then wait for the plane. Those days are gone. Maybe forever. The airport used to advise people to arrive 90 minutes early. Now it's two hours.

Here are some of the changes that started yesterday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport:

Traffic headed for the heavily-congested upper drive at the airport, often filled with bumper to bumper traffic, will likely get a lot worse. The entrance to the three-lane upper drive for departing flights has been narrowed to one lane. That's so a police officer can peer in to check for bombs and remind you not to leave the car unattended. People who park and leave will be towed, at cost of $150 to get their vehicles back. Anyone driving a truck, such as a moving van, will likely be searched. Expect delays as the traffic piles up.

If you make it through the traffic backup, get used to hauling your luggage inside. The curbside check-ins are closed. All bags, except carry-ons, have to be checked with airlines inside the terminal.

Some traffic delays might be avoided by parking in the garage, but you won't get a prime spot close to the terminal if you drive an SUV or other large vehicle with smoked windows. Airport-security staff will direct you to the far side of the garage. People who don't park where told will get their vehicles sniffed by security dogs. And if the dogs don't come by, a tow truck will.

Checking bags and getting airline tickets are pretty much the same. But expect some extra questions, such as whether you're carrying a knife. Passengers are no longer allowed to carry sharp objects, such as small pen knives.

Only ticketed passengers will be allowed past the security checkpoints. People will have to wait in the main terminal to greet arriving passengers. Security is much tighter at the checkpoints. After passing through the metal detectors, passengers may be stopped to have wands passed over their bodies and get patted down for weapons. Carry-on baggage may be searched as well. Even after passing through security, there could be more to come. Some airlines will run metal-detecting wands over passengers at random before they board the planes.

Also expect to see a lot more Port of Seattle police officers hanging around. The airport used to have 12 officers working each 12-hour shift. That has been doubled.



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