Sea-Tac's new, blue yonder


The Mirror

The ticketing area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is crowded and hectic. Passengers jostle and dodge and accidentally bump into each other, and their collective tension crackles through the lines as they shift their weight from leg to leg and inch slowly toward the counter.

The wait to get a boarding pass can seem interminable, and they know what lies ahead: Soon, they’ll be standing at the end of an exponentially longer security checkpoint line staffed by Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) personnel who enforce the carry-on rules and want to see photo ID and boarding passes.

Then come the metal detectors and the X-ray machines.

Jack Dovey, a businessman and Federal Way City Councilman, travels frequently. He said he books everything on-line, packs light and never waits in the ticketing line “because the lines are too long.” Even as a relatively experienced traveler, he noted frequent flyers don’t always know what to expect from the security process.

By the time they get to the gate, many passengers are strained and withdrawn. “Most people generally stay to themselves,” Dovey said. “They’re still wondering what’s going on.”

The completion of a massive overhaul of the central terminal might change that. In fact, Sea-Tac airport travelers may find themselves feeling comfortable, relaxed and even piqued by the 20 new restaurants and stores the central terminal expansion offers — once they get past security. Some might be captivated by the 350-foot glass wall that now offers unobstructed views of aircraft taking off and landing.

The $137 million expansion, which is formalized in an open house today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., might just offer a welcome respite for travelers, who could find themselves surprised at how pleasant spending time in an airport can be.

Dovey, who owns a small wireless communications business, always takes the same thing on his business trips: Cell phones. Sometimes, the TSA scanners want a better look at what he’s carrying — the nodes on some phone chargers can look like the business end of a stun gun in the x-ray machine — but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes he has to take off his shoes, he said. Other times he doesn’t.

There can be a difference in security procedures depending on time of day, too. In the morning, TSA personnel are “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” he said,

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