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Upgrade SEA — The Next Era of Capital Projects Takes Flight

January 23, 2023

By Aly Lande, Capital Project Marketing Specialist

Upgrade SEA Logo

Picture an airport journey without long lines and overflowing crowds. You follow a predictable and easy path from curb to gate with the space, services, and amenities that make your trip just right. There is more of what you know and love about Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), plus more of what you need and want.  

SEA needs modernization to meet that vision. A new suite of capital projects, brought together under the banner Upgrade SEA, will create that experience from the second you hit the Airport Expressway to the moment you board your plane.  


While recent projects in the Central Terminal, N Concourse, and International Arrivals Facility created or modernized approximately 1 million square feet, many remaining facilities across the airport were built for fewer passengers and older building standards. Upgrade SEA will update system efficiency, sustainability and technology, improve accessibility, and add more space for passengers. 

With passenger volumes returning to pre-pandemic numbers, these updates are necessary to maintain SEA’s high standards and 4-star level of service with 5-star aspirations. And while impacts are temporary, they are vital in continuing to invest in the future of this thriving airport. 

Upgrade SEA is more than a construction program. It is also a communications campaign to inform you about changes happening now at SEA. 

Take a journey with us from the airport arrival to boarding your plane to see how you will experience Upgrade SEA.

Airport access upgrades


This first part of the passenger journey starts on the Southbound Airport Expressway with Roadway Improvements headed into the airport. A strategic redesign of lanes will help vehicles more efficiently “sort” into the right access lane for drop off, pick up, ground transportation, and parking. Additional lanes will create more direct airport access for parking, and higher occupancy vehicles like shuttles, TNCs, and taxis. Everyone benefits from moving high occupancy vehicles to their destinations faster. Construction will also streamline the approach and improve the pick-up experience.

The current Curbside Accessibility and Safety program improves access for everyone by eliminating curbs, improving ramps, and adding advanced bollards to protect people on the drives and in the parking garage. If the journey takes you into garage, the Automated Parking Guidance System is a state-of-the-art system that tracks the number of open parking spaces and indicates open stalls with a light system. The new system will indicate open spots, accessible stalls, and EV charging stations on every level in 2023.

Ticketing and checkpoint upgrades


Upgrades are underway at nearly every level of the airport pre-security. One of the major projects is in partnership with Alaska Airlines, called the SEA Gateway Project. A complete revisioning of the Alaska Ticketing area will create not only a beautiful, welcoming space, but also use updated technology to improve the check-in and bag drop process, and redesign checkpoint 5. The project creates a more efficient passenger flow while aesthetically improving the look and feel of the Ticketing and Baggage Claim Levels. The project also develops unused space on the promenade level into usable tenant space. This project is a two-phase project currently in its first phase. You will initially notice project impacts in the baggage claim area with barricades and scaffolding to support the enabling work above.

In coordination with the SEA Gateway Project, the Main Terminal Improvements Program will address upgrades to elements of the airport’s main terminal including baggage claim devices, elevators, signage, and building and water pipe systems. There is also the potential for updates to restrooms, security improvements, and dining and retail options. This project is in the design phase so look forward to more exciting news coming soon! 

The Checkpoint 1 Relocation project also kicks off this year. Checkpoint 1 is currently located on the Ticketing Level and is CLEAR and TSA Precheck only. Moving Checkpoint 1 down to the Baggage Claim Level will open up the area, allowing for more security screening capacity and a better flow and queuing system. As with all capital projects, there are opportunities to include new art pieces creating a visually dynamic new space.

Post-security upgrades


After passing through security, multiple projects make your airport experience more efficient and enjoyable. 

At the very end of the A Concourse, major improvements via the Concourse A Building Expansion for Lounges adds space for a brand-new Delta Sky Club lounge and an expanded Club SEA. This project adds 52,000 square-feet to SEA’s very limited footprint right next to the new International Arrivals facility. These lounge spaces will accommodate the increased customer demand for improved services and amenities. 

Down below the concourses, two projects connect not only the airport and its facilities, but the luggage journey as well. The Baggage Optimization project updates nearly 10 miles of conveyor belts with improved, smart technology for efficient baggage flow as well as energy saving features. Also beginning this year is the SEA Underground Controls Replacement project. The SEA Underground is the train system (STS=Satellite Transit System) that connects the Main Terminal and Concourse A, B, C, and D to the S Concourse (formerly South Satellite) and N Concourse (formerly North Satellite). These control systems are over 20 years old… so old they still have floppy disc drives! This project will update and replace these control boxes that operate the trains at SEA which will optimize system capacity and improve recovery time.

Concourse upgrades


Finally, concourse upgrades will include full redesign of some spaces and updates in the most visited room in the airport, the restrooms!

The Restroom Renovation project enters its fifth and final phase this year with. Multiple restrooms on the B, C, and D Concourses have either been added or renovated, a total of seven for phase four alone, another handful for phase five coming. Bigger and brighter spaces with roomier stalls make the most-visited part of the passenger journey more comfortable. This project also adds art pieces to enhance the experience and look of our restrooms. SEA is committed to being an accessibility leader and we’re excited to open an All-Gender restroom this year in 2023, as well as incorporating adult changing tables, mother’s rooms, animal relief areas, additional family restrooms and water refill stations across the airport. 

Two of the largest projects of Upgrade SEA, the C Concourse Expansion and S Concourse Evolution will transform the airport. The C Concourse raises the roof by four floors. The additional floors add 100,000 square-feet of dining and retail, services and amenities, performance spaces, a glass airfield overlook space, as well as more square-feet for office spaces for business, airlines, and TSA on top of the current C1 space. This project will update technology, sustainability features, and create a better passenger flow while incorporating a Pacific Northwest look and feel. 

The S Concourse Evolution project brings the same vision, only to the S Concourse (formerly South Satellite). With the international arrivals operations vacating the basement of this building, the opportunity came to re-envision the design of the 40-year-old S Concourse. As design continues, the goal is to make this building brighter and more modern for the next 50 years.

Even amid construction, Upgrade SEA will help you navigate the airport with ease and find your favorite spot to watch planes take off or land, or your favorite restaurant to catch up with traveling companions, or the secret corner where you love to read your book.


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