Seattle airport trials digital queuing, touchless kiosks

Credit: SEA

Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) is trialing two pilot programs to test virtual queuing as a solution for crowded general screening lines, as well as touchless airline check-in and baggage drop-off kiosks.

“SEA Spot Saver,” a free digital reservation-based system for the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoints, will test to see if it reduces wait times and crowding to better maintain physical distancing.

SEA Spot Saver will test two options: One is designed for Alaska Airlines passengers at TSA Checkpoint 5 with security solutions company Pangiam. The second is available to Delta Air Lines and all other passengers at TSA Checkpoint 2, with technology provider VHT.

Delta’s director of airport customer service-SEA Helda Durham said, “Our vision for the future of travel is aimed at creating a more seamless, less stressful experience for all.”

The pilot program will operate daily through Aug. 31, 2021 at Checkpoints 2 and 5. It will run from 4 a.m. to noon to reduce congestion during SEA’s peak morning travel period.

According to SEA, during busy travel periods, “checkpoints can serve between 40%-50% of daily passengers in the peak morning period before 11 a.m. Security screening zones are one of the most tightly constrained and consistently crowded areas of the airport.”

Following the pilot completion later this summer, SEA said it will evaluate usage with passengers, customer feedback and increases to line efficiency. “If successful, we hope to launch a broader program as the Port of Seattle continues to use staffing and technology to make the security checkpoint experience as efficient as possible,” SEA said in a statement.

Photo credit: Changi Airport Group

In addition, SEA is evaluating a touchless technology with Happymeter’s “happyhover” mid-air technology—where fingers are detected above an electronic screen—on common-use check-in kiosks available to various passengers from airlines including Air Canada, Denver-based ULCC Frontier, New York-based JetBlue Airways, Korean Air, Florida-based ULCC Spirit Airlines and Mexican LCC Volaris.

The happyhover contactless check-in kiosk was first rolled out at Singapore’s Changi Airport in July 2020.

With this pilot program, SEA said hardware is mounted discreetly onto the top of the kiosk and creates an infrared sheet of light. The technology emulates a touch interface in mid-air so the touchscreen responds when the light is broken. This removes the need for travelers to touch superfluous surfaces during the check-in process. 

Port of Seattle commissioner Sam Cho said, “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. We appreciate the partnership of passengers and airlines to help test these programs for the benefit of our community.”

Linda Blachly

Linda Blachly is Senior Associate Editor for Air Transport World and Aviation Week. She joined the company in July 2010 and is responsible for producing features for Air Transport World’s monthly magazine and engaging content for the She is based in the Washington DC office.