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Seattle airport testing new tech to allow travelers to wait in virtual line for security screening – GeekWire

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport one of the first airports in North America to test a “virtual queuing” system. (SEA Image)

The news: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is introducing two tech-infused experiences to modernize the travel experience and help people stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tech: The airport, or SEA, as it was rebranded last year, is testing a way for travelers to make digital reservations for the TSA general screening security checkpoints. Called SEA Spot Saver, the free program is designed as a virtual queuing system to help people avoid standing in crowded security lines where social distancing is difficult. Users can reserve a spot in advance and will be notified when to proceed to a TSA checkpoint. (The website for the program has an extensive FAQ.)

SEA is also introducing touchless technology called happyhover, where a user can use an electronic screen that detects fingers hovering above without any physical contact. The tech is being used on check-in kiosks available to various airline passengers, including jetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Korean Air, Volaris, Air Canada and Frontier.

Where and how long?: One SEA Spot Saver program is designed for Alaska Airlines passengers at TSA Checkpoint 5 with Pangiam, and powered by WhyLine and Copenhagen Optimization. The second experience by VHT is available to Delta Air Lines and all other passengers at TSA Checkpoint 2.

The pilot is being tested daily through Aug. 31 and will run from 4 a.m. to noon to reduce congestion during SEA’s peak morning travel period.

Exceptions: While SEA Spot Saver does not require a separate travel program or membership, TSA PreCheck passengers should continue to be screened at TSA Checkpoint 4 in order still use their PreCheck benefits — such as not having to remove their shoes and electronics. All CLEAR customers can go to their dedicated lane at each security checkpoint as well to have their expedited experience.

Longterm outlook: The airport is hopeful that less time spent in security lines will translate to more time not in line, shopping or dining or visiting with family and friends before flying.

“We can use technology to make the travel experience more streamlined and intuitive,” Port of Seattle Commissioner Sam Cho said in a statement. “Touchless solutions reduce stress for those traveling today, but are the kind of innovations that will make the airport safer and more efficient for years to come.”

What’s next: Following the pilot completion later this summer, SEA will evaluate usage with passengers, customer feedback and increases to line efficiency. If successful, the airport hopes to launch a broader program.

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