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Recovery at SEA: We’re Ready When You Are

Update on the Port's COVID-19 response Learn more.

July 7, 2020

In the Puget Sound Business Journal’s recent virtual event, Straight Talk: Roadmap to Recovery, Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck and SEA Managing Director Lance Lyttle spoke about plans to reopen the economy. Joined by a panel of CEOs and business leaders, the discussion centered on how industries like aviation and healthcare are pivoting to respond to the new normal. This blog adapts Lance’s opening remarks for our readers. 

SEA Airport experienced a sudden and severe drop in air travel. The impact of COVID-19 is more than twice the impact that SEA experienced after 9/11 and the Great Recession combined.

unprecedented crisis
An unprecedented crisis 

Weathering the storm

This data illustrates how severe of a storm we are weathering. During the worst days of the pandemic we averaged 2,800 daily originating passengers in April. This time of year, we would typically we would be welcoming 60,000 to 70,000 daily departing passengers. However, the passenger trends show a gradual return. We are trending in the right direction as we enter the summer travel season. 

passenger trends
Passenger trends show slow return

When passenger traffic plummeted, we took immediate action to stabilize our business operations and airport community. 

While the airport maintained operations to meet essential trade, travel, and economic needs, we took care of our employees. Anyone who could telework did. We cut costs to protect our cash flow. We sought to ensure the survival of our tenants with rent deferrals and extended leases. And eliminated minimum annual guarantees for airport dining and retail tenants. 

The current forecast projects being down 61 percent this year, but a busier terminal and better times are ahead.

Leading the recovery

SEA is one of the largest job sites in King County, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the recovery.

Locally, work began quickly to stabilize businesses and families during the crisis and prepare our region to thrive in an equitable recovery. Beyond the Puget Sound region, airports across North America, including SEA, are collaborating on a recovery strategy for our entire industry. 

We reviewed our four major construction projects at SEA and decided to advance that work as part of a $1.5 billion capital investment by the Port to enhance travel and trade as part of the economic recovery. These projects are critical infrastructure for the future and provide the immediate benefit of quality, living wage jobs. 

Moreover, we prepared our facilities for the return of passengers because your safety, health, and well-being are our priority, always. This demands massive collaboration between SEA and hundreds of airport business and partners to achieve a consistent travel experience. 

passenger journey graphic
This shows the passenger journey and the complex symphony of partnerships needed to deliver a consistent travel experience. 

The airport will look and feel different the next time you travel as part of FlyHealthy@SEA, including:

  • Face coverings or masks required on every traveler and employee 
  • Signage for reminders and spacing to honor physical distancing
  • Plastic protective barriers that buffer travelers and airport employees
  • Frequent disinfection with medical-grade cleaning products 
  • Addition of over 250 hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal for your use
  • Development of operational readiness plans by each dining and retail tenant at SEA to detail procedures such as physical distancing requirements, sanitation and personal hygiene protocols, personal protective equipment, and how to provide services while limiting close interactions
  • Touchless technologies like Pre-Book Parking for a contact-less transaction online prior to arrival

Preparing for the next normal

The COVID-19 global pandemic forced massive shifts in our lives. We’re living in a new normal.

Touchless technology is the way forward. We are exploring facial and voiceless recognition, capacitive sense devices, and opportunities for contactless transactions. 

Everything is on the table for healthy travel innovation. Ideas like temperature and physical distance sensors, ultraviolet light cleaning, and health certificates. We are exploring volunteer temperature equipment testing as a health screening initiative for passengers. Recently approximately 1,400 passengers participated during a three-day test, and no high temperatures were detected. We are progressing with the next steps as we continue to evaluate this program. 

Our team is ready for the incremental increases in air travel now and to come. We know a busier terminal and better times are ahead. 

As the economy begins its recovery, SEA is also on the runway to recovery.

Learn more about FlyHealthy@SEA
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