Montreal International Airport

This airport lets you reserve your security checkpoint time

Now you can reserve your time on the TSA line at SEA Airport

(This is a slightly different version of a story we wrote for USA TODAY)

The good news: air travel is picking up.

On Sunday May 2, TSA screened more than 1.6 million passengers, the most since March 12, 2020.

The bad news: long wait times at security checkpoints may be back coming back too.

Courtesy Port of Seattle

At times during spring break, the lines to go through the security checkpoint stretched into the food court at Orlando International Airport (MCO). At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, lines snaked across the sky bridge and into the parking garage.

TSA is in the process of hiring 6,000 new screening officers ahead of the predicted summer travel surge. And that should help move things along.

So too could a new pilot program that debuts Tuesday at SEA airport.

The program, called SEA Spot Saver, will attempt to streamline wait times by offering digital reservations, or “virtual queuing” for passengers to go through the screening process.

Here’s how it works

The program will operate daily through August 31, 2021, from 4 a.m. to noon (the airport’s peak travel period) at two checkpoints (2 and 5) and offer expedited screening to general screening passengers for free. No membership or account sign-up is required.

Expedited, non-reserved screening remains available to passengers enrolled in Trusted Traveler programs such as TSA PreCheck and CLEAR.

SEA Spot Saver will be testing two options.

Alaska Airlines passengers can sign up for a security checkpoint appointment online up to 24 hours before their scheduled departure time or once they are in the terminal.

Passengers will receive a QR code to use at checkpoint 5 at their reservation time. This option is offered by Pangiam, and powered by WhyLine and Copenhagen Optimization.

The second option, operated by VHT, is for passengers flying on Delta Air Lines and all other carriers. This option allows passengers to begin booking a checkpoint appointment time by scanning a QR code once they are in the terminal. Passengers will show their emailed reservation appointment at checkpoint 2.

Both options give passengers a 15 minute window for their appointment times. The Alaska Airlines option lets you book up to 12 passengers in a group. The Delta/other airlines option lets you book a group of up to 10.

SEA will be the only airport in the United States currently testing a “virtual queuing” system as a solution for crowded general screening lines. 

Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) has offered screening reservations since 2014 through SecureXpress, but that program is currently on hold due to the pandemic.

“The pandemic has left very few passengers coming and going through YUL,” said YUL spokeswoman Anne-Sophie Hamel via email, “As such, there is no line-up to get through security, and the service is simply not useful right now.”

From October 2020 through April 30, 2021, Denver International Airport (DEN) piloted the VeriFLY app and program. Passengers could book a timed checkpoint appointment, but they also had to file health data information before arrival and get temperature checks on site.

Port of Seattle officials say that after the pilot program is completed late this summer, they will evaluate usage, customer feedback, and line efficiency and, if successful, launch a broader program. 

“These are the innovations and ideas that we love to make our guest experiences more convenient and stress-free, especially as more people get back flying again,” said Charu Jain, Alaska’s senior vice president of merchandising and innovation. “With very little effort, guests can lean on technology to get them through the security process quicker.”

Fresh art, cool sounds from Miami Int’l & other airports

Heading to or through Miami International Airport between now and October 2019?

If so, look for the exhibition Destination Deco, by Gate D29, which is filled with cool Art Deco objects from the Wolfsonian-FIU museum’s current exhibition, Deco: Luxury to Mass Market.

Here are some notes about what’s on view:

Before traveling to the United States and becoming a mainstay of Miami Beach’s world-famous architecture, Art Deco was celebrated at the 1925 Paris International Exposition and then spread throughout Europe.

Designers in the United States turned to affordable materials and used aerodynamic forms and horizontal bands to convey speed.

From exquisite handcraft to streamlined product design, this installation reveals the multi-faceted character of the iconic style. 

The Wolfsonian museum sits just two blocks from the beach in the heart of Miami Beach’s Art Deco district and explores what it means to be modern through a great collection of art, design and everyday objects.

Listen to that airport

Radio Prague has gathered a series of videos comparing the look and sound of Prague’s Vaclav Havel International Airport (PRG) to others, including Zurich Airport (ZRH) in Switzerland, Montreal’s  Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), and Bucharest’s Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP), named for the aeronautical engineer that Romania’s Space Agency, and others, claim invented the jet engine, although others give that credit to Frank Whittle.

Videos below:

Happy Souvenir Sunday: sweets from Montreal Airport

Happy Souvenir Sunday!

Whenever I have a few hours to spend at an airport I poke around for souvenirs to bring home for my friends, my family and, especially, for me.

My rules:

Nothing over $10.

No generic shot glasses.

Something “of that city.”

Recently, I spent some time at the Montréal – Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (YUL) and was pleased to see big clear signs pointing travelers to the locations of power outlets and work tables.


I charged up my travel gadgets and then stocked up on these tasty souvenir candies.


It was a long travel day.  I got hungry.  So, some of these souvenirs ending up doubling as dinner.

Next time – I’ll buy more!

Have you found any great airport souvenirs?  If so, take a photo, send it along (the photo, not – necessarily – the souvenir) and we may feature it in a future episode of  Souvenir Sunday!

More rooms with a zoo

Last summer I flew cross-country to escort retired guide-dog Joplin (below) from Montreal to her new family in Seattle.  The airline misplaced the dog carrier and the dog only understood French, but with the help of about a dozen United Airlines employees at Montreal Airport, Joplin made her flight and arrived “home” safely.

joplinNow, after holding the bone just out of reach for months now, the folks at Pet Airways announced they’re accepting reservations from folks who want to book “seats” for their pets on the animals-only airline.  I’m not sure if Joplin is up for another trip, but if you  send your pet on an adventure on this new pet airline let me know.

In the meantime, if you must fly somewhere without your pet, you may want to choose a hotel that will loan you a pet during your stay or let you hang out with an on-site pet.  More than two-dozen properties that offer that option are included in my Room with a Zoo story that officially posted on this week.

Here are just two of the more than two dozen places included.

kimpton-fishAll Kimpton Monaco hotels offer the “Guppy Love” program.  Guests can request a loaner goldfish (more entertaining than a guppy?) during their stay.  I still have fond memories of perky Panchita, the fish assigned to my room during a stay at the Monaco hotel in Portland, Oregon.

billy-the-sealAt the Bahai Resort Hotel in San Diego, rehabilitated seals like Billy (above) spend their days in their own on-site pool.  They’re entertaining, but quieter than 600-pound male seal lion who lived at the hotel in the 1970’s and enjoyed “singing” along with the band in the bar.

For more hotels with resident animals, please see my Room with a Zoo story on If you know of other hotels with cool, cute on-site animals, please let me know!

Pet hotel coming to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Good news for pets – and their people – who travel via Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The airport will soon put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 24-hour Pet Hotel and Resort on the airport’s west side. DFW airport has received more than two dozen informal inquiries about setting up such a service. Now, officials say, the RFP should be issued this fall and a contract awarded by the end of the year.

Pet hotels are already in operation on the grounds of, or nearby, many other airports. More airport pet hotels are in the works. The most elaborate set-up I’ve seen is on the grounds of Montreal– Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport. When I visited Manoir Kanisha in early July seeking travel advice for Joplin, a service dog I was picking up for a friend, I saw dogs, cats, birds and even rabbits relaxing on pampered pet-vacations.