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Elevating the SEA Experience — Why Airport Ratings Matter

March 7, 2022

When it comes to helping you stress less and making travel more predictable and comfortable, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) Airport is here to help. On your next visit you will see changes including consistent and clear wayfinding, friendly customer service representatives wearing bright green, new digital tools like the flySEA App, SEA Spot Saver, and Order SEA. And beautiful, modern, and efficient new spaces like the N Concourse and International Arrivals Facility (opening soon).  

The first priority is to give you an easy and efficient travel experience, so we're proud that SEA Airport recently earned the prestigious Four-Star Airport Rating by Skytrax, a company that evaluates international airport and airlines. SEA is only the second large hub U.S. airport (serving 40 million or more passengers)  recognized at this level. Skytrax conducted an audit at SEA in December 2021 to evaluate all areas of the airport that impact you, the traveler.  

Julie Collins, SEA Airport Director of Customer Experience and Brand Strategy, shares how these airport ratings are utilized to improve your travel experience. 

Why is the Four-star Skytrax rating such a big deal for travelers? 

The definition of an “excellent customer experience” at SEA is as unique as the millions of passengers who travel through each year.  Because so many factors contribute to a smooth and stress-free travel journey, airport ratings like Skytrax and surveys play a crucial role in establishing success metrics. 

As a robust international gateway, SEA strives to meet the needs of travelers across the globe. This Four-Star rating from Skytrax is an important benchmark for SEA to show we offer an experience aligned with other best-in-class international airports. 

How did SEA earn the Four-Star rating?  

In 2018, Skytrax conducted a Service Audit with an extensive site visit and detailed report assigning scores to 56 categories of customer experience, which included signage, seating, cleanliness, food offerings, comfort at gate waiting areas, and Wi-Fi speed.  Based on this audit, SEA received a solid “Three-Star” rating in 2019, but we knew we could do better. So, we set our sights on earning a “Four-Star” by 2025.  

The 2018 Skytrax Audit served as a roadmap for a large working group of Port staff, as we worked to achieve this goal. Based on the audit, we identified and completed key projects to improve the customer experience, and the Port made funding decisions with this goal in mind. And our hard work paid off! The Four-Star status was awarded based on the results of a December 2021 Skytrax Audit. 

What role did employees play in earning the Four-Star rating? 

Receiving the Four-Star award years ahead of the 2025 goal is an outstanding testament to the hundreds of employees who are driven every day to create an excellent customer experience at SEA. Whether it was completing the modernization of N Concourse ahead of schedule and under budget, launching the first  SEA Spot Saver security line reservation program in the nation, the endless painting to refresh spaces, or offering a helpful hand, this is an award earned by the entire airport staff.  

An SEA volunteer answers passenger questions.

What are the other industry methods SEA uses to measure customer satisfaction? 

SEA is driven to deliver the elevated customer experience articulated in the airport’s brand launched in January 2020.  As we strive to provide a 5-Star airport for our region, we’re pursuing other improvement measurements of success including reaching the top 25% for large hub airports in the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) and J.D. Power surveys. ASQ customer feedback is gathered through quarterly passenger surveys conducted in the terminal and J.D. Power awards are based on post-travel feedback from consumer panels. By understanding how SEA customer satisfaction ranks with other airports, and thoughtfully incorporating customer feedback into terminal investment decisions, we ensure new customer amenities are strategic and well-received.

What other improvements will travelers notice at SEA? 

The number one goal at SEA Airport is to provide an elevated customer experience, and these new developments will make your travel experience better: 

  •  Expanded the size of the customer care team to help respond to customers' questions on social media, text messages, and emails 
  • Developed a campaign to support traveler mental health, predictability and stress management through FlyWell@SEA  
  • Completed the N Concourse modernization with more with more amenities, seismic upgrades, sustainable features, and improved building function 
  • Launched SEA Spot Saver, a first-of-its-kind reservation program for TSA screening for passengers flying out of Seattle! 
  • Introduced the globally accredited and award-winning FlyHealthy@SEA program to protect the health of passengers and employees and restore confidence in air travel 
  • Debuted the Sensory Room, a quiet area to reduce the stress of travel for travelers those with neurological or developmental disabilities, and a calming spot if you're feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated by the sights and sounds of the airport 

Skytrax rating graphic

 What can travelers look forward to in 2022 and beyond? 

This year will be another year of significant enhancements to make your journey better, starting with the opening of the new world-class International Arrivals Facility. Travelers can also look forward to an updated Central Terminal dining and entertainment venue and opening of several fully modernized restrooms. Sustainability and accessibility features are important upgrades throughout SEA Airport. 

The next several years will bring more transformational improvements, including: 

  • A fully renovated ticketing area for Alaska Airlines and expanded security checkpoint #5 
  • An immersive duty-free experience in the A Concourse 
  • S Concourse renovation 
  • Checkpoint #1 relocation and expansion within an enhanced baggage claim area 
  • New lounge spaces for Delta and American Express  
  • A four-story building in the C Concourse with new restaurants, shops, gathering places, and an outdoor viewing area 

How will SEA Airport continue to provide an excellent experience for travelers in the future? 

We’re passionate about incorporating customer feedback to continually improve the airport experience! To gain additional insights about customer sentiment, the Port is conducting  a series of six “deep dive” passenger surveys in 2022.  Travelers in the terminal will be asked for input on restrooms, wayfinding signage, customer service, helpfulness, and comfort in the gate waiting areas. We’ll also use the Port’s social media channels to solicit customer input and we hope you’ll let us know your thoughts! 

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