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Advice for Busiest Summer Yet: Come Early, Come Prepared, and Discover Something New

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

June 10, 2019

Over 15.6 million travelers will pass through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this summer, nearly one-third of the passenger total for the year, or an average of nearly 170,000 passengers per day.

The busy season kicks into gear the weekend of June 14 when several local school districts break for summer vacation. With construction underway on one million square feet of new or renovated facilities, Sea-Tac Airport advises summer passengers to Come Early, Come Prepared, and Discover Something New.

“Summer is an exciting time of the year,” said Lance Lyttle, Aviation Managing Director.  “We are adding staff, making facilities investments, and focusing on customer service to help everyone get the most out of their summer travel.”

Here is some of the best advice to prepare for your trip and discover something new at Sea-Tac Airport.

Lucky Louie's is just one of the new eateries now open in the first phase of the Central Terminal renovation project at Sea-Tac Airport, March 29, 2019
Lucky Louie's is just one of the new eateries now open in the first phase of the Central Terminal renovation project at Sea-Tac Airport.

Traffic Numbers

From June 4 through September 4, over 15.6 million passengers will go through Sea-Tac Airport, exceeding just over 15 million for the summer of 2018, a four percent increase. That’s an average of 170,000 passengers a day through the airport. In fact, July and August of last year were the first months ever with total passengers in excess of five million. We are expecting the same this year.

What can you do to prepare?

  • Plan ahead and get here early Two hours ahead of time for a domestic flight and three hours for an international flight;
  • Avoid driving if you can Use light rail, public transit, taxis, airport shuttle or ride-share vehicles and Think Opposite;  
  • Limit carry-on food items for faster screening Large food items could trigger additional screening.  In addition, security checkpoint wait times are unpredictable, plan to arrive early in case of long lines.
  • Download the Sea-Tac Airport App Monitor security checkpoint wait times, search for your flight, and map the restaurants, lounges, salon, meditation room, children’s play area, stores, or other services you want to visit.

See below for more details on tips to make your travel as efficient as possible.

What is Sea-Tac doing to help the congestion?

  • Hired over 30 additional customer service staff for summer rush – Questions? Ask one of our staff in red or teal – they are the experts who are here every day. For example, the shortest line at the checkpoints isn’t always the fastest. The fastest line may be longer because that checkpoint has more lanes to process travelers. Our staff will direct you to the best option.
  • Automated screening lanes (ASLs), expanded lanes and improved tech – More efficient processing with ASLs is now available at checkpoints #5 and #2. Meanwhile, checkpoint #4 adds a new lane in mid-June and checkpoint #1 will add another lane by early July, both for TSA PreCheck travelers. In addition, we upgraded checkpoint technology with infra-red sensors that provide more accurate, real-time wait times.
  • Planning for the future – With $3.7 billion worth of more than 100 projects underway now, change is on the horizon. Plus, we are planning for 30 more projects to improve efficiency with the Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP). See below for more information.

The Sea-Tac App displays security checkpoint wait times and is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
The Sea-Tac App displays security checkpoint wait times and is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Tech options

  • Use the Apps! Download the Sea-Tac Airport App to watch security checkpoint wait times, search for your flight, find yourself on the terminal map and navigate to restaurants, lounges, the meditation room or your favorite shop. Also, use multiple other apps to help you navigate and enjoy the airport.
  • Sign up for text alerts. Get text updates about what's happening at the airport by texting "Update" to 206-347-8045.
  • Sign up for Trusted Traveler Programs such as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Also, consider signing up for CLEAR to get you through the lines faster. These expedited security programs help for both domestic and international travel, including a faster way through customs with Automated Passport Control and Mobile Passport Control
  • Gourmand-on-the-go! Dining options throughout Sea-Tac like Evergreens Salad, Qdoba and Beecher’s offer online and mobile ordering – explore all seven eateries here. Several of our fast, casual restaurants such as Camden Foods Co., McDonald’s and Pei Wei Asian Kitchen offer ordering kiosks for travelers to skip the line.

Sound Transit's Link light rail is a convenient option for getting to and from Sea-Tac Airport
Sound Transit's Link light rail is a convenient option for getting to and from Sea-Tac Airport.

Getting to the airport

  • Arrive early! Security checkpoint wait times are unpredictable. Plan on arriving at the airport at least two hours in advance for a domestic flight, and three hours for international travel. To save time, print your boarding pass and check your flight status at home. Some airlines allow you to print luggage tags in as well. This saves time at the ticket counter. For more info about checkpoints, check out this blog.
  • Avoid driving if you can. Take light rail, public transit, taxis, airport shuttles or ride-share vehicles. Public transportation is by far the best option if you want to stay out of a traffic jam. Use Link Light Rail to travel all the way to the airport or meet your party at one of the nearby stations. Tukwila and Angle Lake stations offer free short-term parking one stop away to avoid airport traffic headaches. There are also a free shuttle cart service for those who may need extra help from the station to the airport terminal.
  • Think opposite. In the morning, drop off passengers on the Arrivals level. In the evenings, arrange to meet your passengers on the Departures level. Peak traffic congestion occurs on Departure from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. During the middle of the day, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., both Arrivals and Departure experience backups. In the evenings, the Arrivals drive experiences heavy traffic from about 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Going opposite gets you out of the traffic crunch.
  • Are you there yet? If you’re picking up passengers, make sure they are there before going to the drive. It will take some time for them to walk from the plane or pick up bags.
  • Be sure and check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that might hinder your access to the airport.

Ready for security checkpoint

  • Be ready for security checkpoints. Once travelers get to the airport, Sea-Tac and its partners in the Transportation Security Administration want to help you move through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from their carryon luggage.
  • Be thoughtful with food. Sea-Tac recommends that unless you plan on eating food at the airport or on your flight, pack your treats in your checked luggage. Keeping food or liquids in your carry-on luggage might have to be screened twice.

What’s new at Sea-Tac Airport

  • Bon appétit! Sea-Tac Airport opened 15 new dining options so far this year! Lucky Louie Fish Shack™, Evergreens Salad, Pallino Pastaria, Pei Wei Asian Kitchen, and Koi Shi Sushi Bento are new quick service eateries in the Central Terminal that are sure to satisfy every palate.
  • Other fresh additions include Caffe D’arte, Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, and Skillet that are serving up espresso, Vietnamese cuisine and gourmet comfort foods in the N Gates, plus Le Grand Comptior on Concourse C, serving hand-picked Pacific Northwest wines as well as sit down bistro-inspired foods. Also, later this year Concourse D will see the opening of Ballard Brew Hall and Poke to the Max.

Interior view of the International Arrivals Facility under constuction, May 2019.
Interior view of the International Arrivals Facility under construction, May 2019.

Planning for the future

  • With more than $3 billion in capital development underway, passengers will continue seeing something new at Sea-Tac Airport every 90 days. In just the last five months alone, Sea-Tac Airport opened 15 new restaurants. Major ongoing projects that make travel more efficient, expand passenger space, and offer new amenities include the North Satellite Modernization, International Arrivals Facility, Central Terminal Renovation Project, and, the Baggage System Upgrade.
  • The Port of Seattle and FAA are also conducting an environmental review of more than 30 Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP) Near-Term Projects that will improve efficiency, safety, access to the airport. Highlights include a new terminal with 19 gates, and an automated people mover with three stations to connect the rental car facility, new terminal, and main terminal. Near-Term Projects will be complete or under construction by 2027.

Contact

Contact: Perry Cooper | Sea-Tac Airport
(206) 787-4923 | cooper.p@portseattle.org

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