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Departures reopen at Sea-Tac Airport after investigation into unattended luggage causes delays

The departures lane was closed for nearly three hours on Sunday during a routine investigation into unattended luggage, causing backups and delays.

SEATAC, Wash. — Operations are returning to normal at Sea-Tac Airport after an investigation into unattended luggage caused backups and delays Sunday evening. 

Some entrances and exits to the departures terminal, along with the departures lanes, were closed for nearly three hours during the investigation. Cars headed toward departures were funneled toward arrivals instead.

The unattended luggage was near Alaska Airlines' check-in counter at the airport.

"I was like what the heck is going on?” said Emma Sharp, an airport traveler heading home to Alaska. "I saw the police car outside first and I was like, 'What?' And I overheard some people talking about an unattended bag or something.”  

Alaska and American Airlines' ticketing counters were evacuated. 

"Pushing us back further and further away," said Jackson Hill, another traveler.

"Police rolled in on either four wheelers, or the Segways, and said, 'Everybody listen up! All of the Alaska passengers move,'" said Kristin Sharp, Emma's mom. "Initially, it was just down past American, and then they kept saying further down by Southwest. And so totally came in and yelled at everybody, got their attention."

A spokesperson said there was no threat to the public and police were treating it like a possibly dangerous situation due to protocol. A bomb unit responded to the scene, along with a bomb robot and bomb unit operator.

The hours-long closure caused congestion and frustration among travelers, according to a KING 5 reporter on the scene.

The Sharp family described a sense of anxiety at the airport. 

"People are kind of just wandering all over the place trying to see what's going on, but also, like, trying to stay a safe distance away because they don't know what could be coming," said Emma Sharp.

Alaska Airlines tweeted that it will take time for operations to return to normal and residual impacts are still possible. The airline encouraged people to check the status of their flights, check-in online and access their digital boarding passes before arriving at the airport.

The FAA is asking all passengers at Sea-Tac Airport to check with their airlines to see if their flights are impacted.

According to FlightAware, there have been 161 delays and three cancellations at Sea-Tac Airport on Sunday.

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