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A New Normal: FlyHealthy@SEA

June 5, 2020

The COVID-19 global pandemic forced massive shifts in our lives from how we interact with friends to everyday errands like grocery shopping. We now expect different behavior from each other and new protocols from businesses to protect our health. We’re living in a new normal.  

In mid-May, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) launched FlyHealthy@SEA, a strategy to ensure the health and well-being of passengers, employees, and visitors. Our airport’s managing director, Lance Lyttle, shared the immediate actions in response to COVID-19 and how SEA was preparing for the next phase of re-opening our economy.

Since then, we’ve been working to get ready for the incremental increases in air travel now and to come. Here’s a quick progress report on the early milestones of FlyHealthy @ SEA. 

Physical distancing 

Passengers honoring physical distancing at SEA.
Passengers honoring physical distancing at SEA.

Public health officials recommend physical distancing to maintain space between ourselves and others to contain the spread of COVID-19. Here is what we’re doing at SEA. 

  • Require face coverings in all public areas 
  • Added almost 3,000 signs and floor decals with reminders for physical distancing to encourage keeping 6 ft. or 2 m. from others, allowing no more than four in an elevator, and standing on every fourth step on an escalator 
  • Installed 180 plastic protective barriers that buffer interactions between travelers and airport employees (89 percent complete) 


Hand sanitizer station next to a public information sign reminding passengers to sayt 6 feet apart, SEA Airport, May 2020
Hand sanitizer station at SEA.

At the beginning of COVID-19, we escalated our already-robust cleaning practices to ensure frequent disinfection with medical-grade cleaning products. We added an emphasis on high-touch areas such as buttons, handrails, and counters. 

  • Added over 250 hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal for your use. Download the SEA App with our interactive map of hand sanitizer locations.
  • 5,720 hours spent cleaning and disinfecting the buses and terminal at SEA each week, 97,240 total hours since February
  • Spritzed, sprayed, and dispensed over 1,010 gallons of hand sanitizer, more than 4,500 ounces of disinfecting spray and 1,135 containers of sanitizer wipes 
  • Cleaning every two hours at the security checkpoints that are open, and deep cleaning and sanitizing TSA bins after hours

Airport Dining and Retail 

Employees at Evergreens at SEA wear face coverings. 

Each dining and retail tenant at SEA developed COVID-19 operational readiness plans detailing procedures for physical distancing requirements, sanitation and personal hygiene protocols, personal protective equipment, and how to provide services while limiting close interactions. Our restaurants and shops are acting now to ensure the health of passengers and employees.

  • Face coverings are required for front and back of house staff
  • Plastic protective barriers at transaction points to buffer interactions between travelers and employees
  • Maintain six-foot physical distancing requirements for employees and patrons as much as possible
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection, particularly of high touch surfaces
  • Temperature checks to screen employees for illness
  • Transition from common use items such as condiments, menus, cutlery, and serveware to single-use products
  • Dine-in restaurants will reconfigure spaces to reduce capacity by 50 percent and table sizes are limited to parties no larger than five
  • Staff will regulate occupancy to honor physical distancing inside of dine-in and retail spaces

SEA is also working on the appropriate permissions so travelers may take alcoholic beverages to-go in support of physical distancing. The Port requested an exemption for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board that would allow the sale of to-go alcohol from airport restaurant locations to consume them elsewhere in the terminal.

Healthy technology

SEA is also exploring new technologies to develop long-term safety solutions: 

  • Launched Pre-Booked Parking to pay for SEA Airport parking online for a safe and contact-less transaction prior to arrival.
  • Quickly converting our bathrooms that aren’t already touchless to new fixtures for paper towels and automatic soap dispensers. Our terminal bathrooms are already sensor-based water faucets. 
  • Airport dining and retail is partnering with PathSpot to test a hand scanner that utilizes detection technology to give real-time feedback on the quality of each handwash by employees. This software shares data on the frequency and effectiveness of handwashing to monitor and improve handwashing compliance.
  • Contactless food ordering and delivery through Grab is coming later this year. Travelers will be able to use their phones to read the menu, order, and pay for their meal  
  • We are exploring a plan to test new equipment to check the body temperatures of passengers as a precaution against COVID-19. Our airport dining and retail tenants are implementing temperature checks to screen employees for illness.

PathSpot hand scanner coming soon pilot program at SEA. Image credit: PathSpot

FlyHealthy @ SEA will continue to evolve as travelers return to the airport. Thanks to all employees and travelers that are working to protect the health each other — we’re in this together and we will get through it. 

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