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Get Prepared! Memorial Day Weekend Starts the Summer Travel Season at SEA Airport

Use new tech and try alternate options to avoid congestion arriving and through the terminal
May 17, 2023

Memorial Day kicks off the summer travel season and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) will be close to pre-pandemic levels. The best advice is – prepare, prepare, prepare!

Reduce your stress by avoiding congestion on the drives, use technology to avoid lines, enroll in a Trusted Traveler program, and check out SEA Airport Travel Tips, including these:

  1. The free SEA Spot Saver service is on the top of the list. Sign up online for a 15-minute virtual spot in line at the checkpoint for up to 10 travelers to make sure you’ll have the easiest access. You can sign up as early as five days before or up to when you arrive to the airport.
  2. Check out the flySEA app for your latest updates and be ready to travel!
  3. Monitor social media and SEA text messaging to stay on top of construction projects underway to avoid delays on the drives and getting from the garage to the terminal. And track projects with Upgrade SEA.
  4. Watch the drive cams and avoid picking up/dropping off during the busiest traffic periods (6:00 a.m.–8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.). Treat your friends and family to a taxi or Ride App Pick Up or use Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail. Learn more about alternative modes of transportation.
  5. The airport garage will be busy. If parking is your only option, plan on an extra 45-60 minutes to find a spot.
  6. Avoid car prowls by locking your car, don’t leave valuables in sight, keep your luggage and belonging close at all times, go straight to baggage claim after arrival, be aware of your surroundings, and call 911 if you see any suspicious activity.

Check out our travel tips for more suggestions and ideas before and after you get to SEA.

What are the busiest times?

These tips should help any traveler, but those with early flights should take the most care. Typically, more than one-third of our daily volume arrives at the airport before 9:00 a.m. Travelers heading out before 10 a.m. should be prepared for very busy conditions at TSA security and on the drives. In addition, busy times will also be seen between 2-5 p.m. and 9 – 11 pm, especially on the drives where a majority of arrivals occur. Use these tips to skip the line.

Skip the line

  • Get thru security quickly! The free SEA Spot Saver program expanded its morning and evening hours to speed you through TSA screening. Sign-up as many as five days in advance online or in the terminal with a QR code next to the checkpoints.
  • Going to Mexico or another international destination for your holiday? Download the Mobile Passport Control app before you leave home. Add your travel details as you land back at SEA. Collect your bags and go straight to a dedicated line in the arrival hall. Your entire family can complete the customs process from a single mobile device.
  • If driving and parking is your best choice, the new automated parking guidance system upgrades your experience in the garage with easy-to-use lighting that indicates available stalls. Or Switch it up to Speed it Up! Avoid the airport’s longest traffic lines by using the arrivals/lower level to drop off in the morning and departures/upper level to pick up in the evening.
  • Try Order SEA, a mobile ordering service that allows you to pick up meals on the way to your gate. Order through the SEA Airport app.

Try something new

  • New eats are available at N Concourse Nine new locations opened recently and are ready for you to discover. Newbies include the first ever Costa Coffee retail location at a U.S. airport – a staple in the U.K.!
  • 15 new dining and retail spaces have opened throughout SEA in the last 18 months, including the fully re-opened Central Terminal! Salty’s at the SEA and BrewTop Social  and the new Amex Lounge complete this spacious modernization. Come back for more seating, dining options, charging stations, and the best airport views.

We’re upgrading SEA

  • Upgrade SEA highlights more than $4.6 billion in improvements underway over the next five-years; here’s a blog for more info.
  • Construction for safety and accessibility improvements unfortunately means temporary closures along garage skybridges and the airport drives.
  • A major new ticketing area renovation project has spillover impacts in the baggage claim area.

By the numbers

Passenger levels for the Memorial Day period will be at 2019 levels, plus or minus 1-2 percent. Volume at SEA will be about 20 percent higher than 2022. Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays are projected to be the busiest days.

The busiest days are expected to be Fridays, May 19 and May 26 with 171,000 travelers overall through the airport (departing, arriving, and connecting), followed by Thursdays, May 18 (164,000) and May 25 (161,000).

For 2022, SEA was just under 46 million passengers (45,964,321), 27.1 percent over 2021 and down 11.3 percent versus 2019. Projections for 2023 see traffic levels to be short of 2019 levels by only 6 percent for the year with pre-pandemic levels returning in 2024. Dig in more on our Statistics page.

What’s the best advice for travelers?

  • Get here early! Depending on your needs, you may need more time. Make sure you’re at the airport at least two hours before your boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.
  • Be prepped with your airline ahead of time! Make sure you check their baggage policies, check in, and have all their apps downloaded for efficient travel. See our best baggage tips!
  • Safety First; Avoid Shoulder Parking — Vehicles are encouraged to use the new reconfigured cellphone lot and avoid dangerous parking along the shoulder of the airport drives. Violators will be cited as the Port of Seattle Police are working with the Washington State Patrol for emphasis patrols during the holiday.

Give me the traveler basics

  • Be ready for security checkpoints. SEA and TSA want to help you move through 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 and prepare to hold up your boarding pass for review. You can also see the latest Identification and Documentation Requirements.
  • Need more travel hacks? Our Customer Care team has the best advice to navigate SEA like a frequent flier.
  • SEA continues to add new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Check out our 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.
  • Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that might hinder your access to the airport.


Perry Cooper | Port of Seattle Senior Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 |

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