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COVID-19 Changed Business as Usual

COVID-19 and travel at SEA Airport More Information

January 22, 2021

Going into 2020, the Port of Seattle was anticipating growth across all gateways – from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to the marine cargo terminals to the cruise side of the maritime business. Then one year ago everything changed. On January 20, 2020, public health officials confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the United States in Washington state. As the pandemic set in, the Port’s best-laid plans went out the window, and we pivoted quickly across all Port lines of business. 

The Port and SEA teams reassessed priorities and changed focus to maintaining essential services to continue to provide the critical transportation infrastructure that’s vital to the region. Then and now, our partners and colleagues on the front lines and behind the scenes continue to play a key role in keeping essential operations running safely and successfully during uncertain and constantly-changing times.

With safety, health, and well-being as the highest priorities, we developed an action plan to protect the health of travelers, employees, and community members using all facilities.

As a critical driver of economic growth in our region, we stepped up to lead an equitable regional recovery, helping stabilize businesses with relief, increasing investments in community programs aimed towards those hardest hit by the pandemic, and continuing significant investments in capital projects to keep people employed and to ready facilities for the future demand that we know is coming.. As the pandemic continues to challenge all lines of business, the Port continues to focus on taking care of passengers, employees, and neighbors. And to create opportunities that benefit everyone in the community. After a year of extraordinary challenges and an extraordinary response, we are looking ahead to a brighter 2021— better equipped, more resilient, and ready to work.

Here are a few insights on how COVID-19 changed team members’ everyday operations and lives. And we want to hear your stories on social media about how COVID-19 changed your lives:

Laurel Dunphy
Director, Airport Operations 
SEA Airport
“Last year at this time, 2020 seemed like it would be another year of airport growth and opportunity.  It turned out to be a year that changed just about everything — how we work, socialize, travel, dine, recreate, and attend school.  It also gave us time to reflect on what is really important in our individual lives.   Despite all the headwinds we faced in 2020, we accomplished a lot — we all became fluent in Microsoft Teams, experts on social distancing, and found our preferred type of face coverings.  We launched a successful FlyHealthy campaign, lifted the IAF bridge, built new deicing pads, ran a successful full-scale emergency response exercise, held cargo tonnage steady despite the significant drop in international belly cargo, reduced the rate of major ground incidents, and worked creatively to provide physical distancing to our passengers and employees.  These are just a few of the many accomplishments we have to be proud of as a team. The full list would take me days to write."


Julie Collins
Director, Customer Experience and Brand Strategy
SEA Airport
"The SEA brand promise around delivering an exceptional customer experience has guided every action during COVID-19. Staff across the airport have acted with collaborative urgency to ensure the terminal is adapted for physical distancing, cleaning protocols are enhanced and signs with safety reminders are everywhere. We’ve considered the health needs of customers in new ways such as providing onsite COVID tests and hundreds of hand sanitizer locations. Most of all, we’ve drawn even closer to the emotional needs of our customers with timely COVID-related communication and positive in-person encouragement around safety actions like face mask compliance. We share the hope that COVID-19 will be eradicated soon, but this heightened SEA spirit around customer care will certainly continue." 

Kelli Goodwin
Senior Manager, Maritime Operations 
"The pandemic changed Maritime operations overnight. When three quarters of staff began working from home, we leveraged technology to share information, collaborate, and continue our work almost seamlessly. The team was innovative and created new ways to keep Marine Maintenance personnel and vessel crew safe: touchless processes for necessary work and electrical connect/disconnects. Members of the fishing fleet also worked tirelessly and invested considerable resources to protect their vessels and crew from COVID-19. This included extensive testing, hotel rentals for quarantining, motor coaches to transport crew after quarantine, and chartering flights for crew changes."

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