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Airport Kicks Off Cell Phone Lot Improvements for Efficiency and Safety as Traffic Volumes Increase for Summer Travel

A little preparation helps avoid construction projects and crowds for more peace of mind
July 1, 2021

With summer travel steadily increasing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), a little preparation goes a long way towards lowering summer travel stress. New facilities and amenities can help you save time, minimize time in crowded lines, and travel with peace of mind this summer.

Just north of the Main Terminal construction is now underway at the cell phone waiting lot. One of the most congested areas in the airport, the completed project will create a dedicated new entrance, improve traffic signals, reconfigure the parking area and make roadway improvements along both S. 170th Street and Air Cargo Road.

Construction will be on-going this summer (the best time to do this work) and planning ahead with alternatives to the cell phone waiting lot can help you avoid potential delays:

The project is expected to open in the fall of 2021 ahead of the winter holidays. For updated information on the Cell Phone Waiting Lot progress, visit the online project page which includes an animated map of the new access route.

Travel recovery reaches new peaks

Current projections estimate the Thursday and Friday ahead of the July 4th holiday will see over 50,000 outbound travelers each day going through the security checkpoints, which amounts to more than 140,000 total passengers each day going through the airport (inbound, outbound, and connecting). This is still approximately 25-30% fewer travelers compared to pre-pandemic levels (per day, 56 - 68,000 outbound and up to 171,000 overall passengers during the 2019 July 4th holiday weekend). The busiest day since the pandemic began was June 25 with 52,153 screened outbound and over 145,500 overall passengers. The busiest months of the year for SEA are traditionally the summer months June through August.

The latest SEA passenger forecasts estimate June to be at 75% of 2019 levels increasing to 81% in July and 86% in August. The most recent completed monthly data shows May was down 31% from pre-pandemic 2019 passenger numbers.

SEA Airport re-opening guidelines

With the State’s COVID-19 re-opening restrictions lifted on June 30, 2021, some things remain at the airport like masks are required inside the terminal and onboard aircrafts, while other things are being de-escalated:

  • As a transportation hub, masks are still required inside the airport by the CDC and must be worn over the nose and mouth. Masks are no longer required for travelers in open-air spaces like the airport drives and the parking garage.
  • Airport dining and retail returns to full capacity with no occupancy limits. Alcohol service resumes with no time limits for service.
  • The shuttles to and from the Rental Car Facility no longer have occupancy limits, but masks must be worn onboard.
  • Distancing rules are also removed, including the re-opening of all queue lines in front of the security checkpoints.

What’s new at SEA

  • The New North Satellite, home of the N gates, is now fully open! Originally expected to open in the third quarter of 2021, the airport and its partners opened the completed building on June 29 with ten new passenger gates, new restrooms, landmark public art installations, and the Marketplace at N with a stage for live performances and open seating with views of the airfield. Dining and retail options Tundra Taqueria, SEA Roast Coffee House, Pike & Pine, and Filson open this summer.
  • Try SEA Spot Saver! This is a free pilot program this summer for passengers to sign-up for reservations at the TSA general screening security checkpoints. RSVP to save your spot in line the day before you travel.
  • Breathe easy knowing our air filtration and ventilation system constantly circulates fresh, outdoor air through the terminal and uses a system that captures 90% of COVID-19 particles.
  • New Lost & Found – One of the worst things about travel is if you lose something! Yikes! Now there’s a larger Lost & Found to help. Located on bag claim level across from carousel 13, the new office is twice the size of the old one and ready to help with an overall return rate of 89.6 percent!

Good reminders

  • If you’re sick, stay home. If you have symptoms, do not travel.
  • Arrive two hours before domestic flights and three hours for international travel – just like we used to. This is including your entire travel experience at the airport, from parking (at the airport garage or off-site with a shuttle), if you need to check bags at the ticket counters, getting through security checkpoints, and getting to your gate on time.
  • Check travel guidance. Check with your airline regarding any rules you need to know for the state or country where you plan to travel.

Give me the traveler basics

The pandemic paused leisure travel for the last year. And rightly so. Now, travelers are more comfortable booking trips with the right planning and precautions to stay healthy. The CDC guidance for travelers changes depending on your COVID-19 vaccination status.  We’re focused on keeping travelers and the SEA team safe. We are ready for you when you feel good about traveling.

  1. For a more efficient experience, download (or update!) the flySEA App. See checkpoint waits in real time in 5-minute increments, locate dining and retail to explore, and use the interactive map to navigate the airport.
  2. Look for the SEA Pathfinders in bright green if you have questions in the terminal or DM us and our customer care team is happy to help!
  3. Park in the airport garage. Consider picking up and dropping off passengers in the airport garage to avoid congestion. Short-term parking is only $5/hour.
  4. Be ready for security checkpoints. SEA and TSA want to help you move through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from carry-on luggage. Also, remove foods and liquids from your carry-on luggage, prepare to hold up your boarding pass for review, and wear your mask.
  5. Need more travel hacks? Visit the Summer Travel Guide 2021 for our best advice to navigate SEA like a frequent flier.
  6. SEA is adding new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Check out our new SEA Social Story developed for travelers with sensory sensitivities such as autism, but also great overall tips for kids. Learn more about accessibility at SEA. The interactive map on the flySEA App offers accessible route directions.
  7. Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that might hinder your access to the airport.

FlyHealthy@SEA will continue to evolve as travelers return to the airport. For more information, please visit:


Perry Cooper | SEA Airport 
(206) 787-4923 |

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