With near pre-pandemic volumes expected this holiday season, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is alerting travelers with advice on how to avoid the worst congestion and longest lines.
Nearly 1.5 million travelers will go through the airport from Thursday, November 18 through Monday, November 29 highlighted with the surge of leisure fliers seen throughout the recovery period. That’s 150% more travelers than the airport served in 2020 and about 88% of pre-pandemic travel in 2019. With more travelers, the airport garage and off-airport parking is stretched to capacity, and security lines are beginning to become more crowded. To help travelers prepare, this week SEA Airport launched a public information campaign to get the word out for easy and stress-free ways to minimize the waiting.
“Parking, security lines, and restaurant lines are the most congested places at the airport, especially during a period of surging holiday travel. New programs can make your trip more predictable and less stressful,” said Lance Lyttle, SEA Airport Managing Director. “A little planning will go a long way to make your trip enjoyable.”
Why is parking suddenly so congested? Safety precautions and social distancing guidelines continue to impact customer transportation preferences in 2021. More customers prefer to drive their own cars, while pandemic closures have reduced the number of parking stalls in the area outside the airport, staffing shortages reduced shuttle bus availability and a garage improvement project means further temporary restrictions.
“This holiday season, start your travel on the right note,” said Sound Transit Board Chair Kent Keel. “Avoid the hassle of traffic and search for parking. Choose the reliable and affordable option to get to the airport. Ride Link light rail.”
Three new Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail stations in the north end open exciting options for easily reaching the airport on light rail.
Security lines are another highly-congested place in the airport. Use SEA Spot Saver to skip the security line! This free program enables you to make a reservation for the TSA general screening line. This first-of-its-kind program is now being copied by other airports but here at SEA now! RSVP to save your spot in line up to 72 hours before travel for flights between 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. – our busiest times at the checkpoint!
Finally, skip the line to order food. Don’t start your vacation hangry, eat with Order SEA, our mobile food ordering service with an option for gate delivery, for food from all over the airport. Download the (or update!) the flySEA App to check out restaurant menus and place your order.
Alternate ways to get to SEA Airport
- The SEA Airport parking garage is busy this holiday season.
- Avoid driving hassles with Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail. Public transit is by far the best option if you want to stay out of a traffic jam.
- Catch a ride with taxis or app-based rideshares like Uber and Lyft, or other ground transportation.
- Rent your own ride. All rental car companies operate at an off-site rental car facility where dedicated shuttle buses transport passengers for free 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year.
- Pedal power! Yes, you can even bicycle to the airport with bike racks and two ways to access the airport on a bike.
- If you still plan to park, we recommend at least 30 minutes to find a stall. Off-site parking facilities are also expected to be very busy. Parking reservations are recommended.
- If you’re picking up or dropping off loved ones…
- Check out the new and improved Cell Phone Lot! The new access ramp is a game change with better flow for entry and exiting you can pick up your passengers easier. Use it instead of shoulder parking, which is dangerous and illegal!
- Think opposite and balance the drives when going to pick up passengers! Use the Departures Drive for pickup at night and the Arrivals Drive for passenger drop off in the morning.
New Programs to Make Travel Easier at SEA
- Start with our Holiday Travel Guide 2021
- Use SEA Spot Saver to skip the security line! This free program enables you to make a reservation for the TSA general screening security line. This first-of-its-kind program is now being copied by other airports but here at SEA now! RSVP to save your spot in the line up to 72 hours before travel for flights between 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. – our busiest times at the checkpoint!
- Arrive two hours before domestic flights and three hours prior for international travel.
- 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.
- 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!
- Check TSA’s rules on what you can bring through security.
- Don’t start your vacation hangry, eat with Order SEA, our mobile food ordering service with an option for gate delivery, for food from all over the airport.
- Stay on the nice list. SEA Airport, the businesses and restaurants, and airlines are working hard to staff up and get ready for the travel rush. Pack your flexibility and patience for the holidays!
- Escape the busy airport terminal with The Club SEA, open daily by Gates S9 and A12. Day passes are $45 and include complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks, beverages, and bar service. Totally worth it!
What Should I Know Now?
- Masks are still required as federal mask mandates continue for transportation facilities through January 2022. If you haven’t traveled recently, SEA Airport encourages passengers to check the flySEA app and FlyHealthy@SEA for healthy, safe, and thoughtful travel. Testing isn’t required for most domestic travel but check on the latest for international travel and Hawaii.
- AskSEA is a new voice-activated app to get your airport questions answered at home! Prep for your trip with a Google Assistant or an Amazon Alexa for quick answers.
- The New North Satellite is now open! With 20 new gates, new landmark public art installations, a stage for live performances, open seating with views of the airfield and more to come with the Marketplace at N and additional retail options coming soon like Pike & Pine, and Filson.
- Once you’re here, enjoy two new dining and retail options with Tundra Taqueria and SEA Roast Coffee House at the new North Satellite, home of the N gates. And check out more throughout the terminal!
- Want to meet someone at the gate or dine and watch the airfield? The SEA Visitor Pass is back for those who are not flying. Space is limited each day.
Make it Easier at SEA
- 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.
- 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.
By The Numbers
Current projections forecast 1.45 million travelers will go through SEA Airport from November 18 – 29. The busiest days will be the Sunday after the holiday, Nov 28, as many return home (136,000 travelers through the airport), followed by the Wednesday (132,000), Tuesday (120,000) and Monday (129,000) ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. This represents approximately up to 85-88% of the passenger volume pre-pandemic in 2019. For additional comparison, in 2019, SEA Airport would reach peaks of over 185,000 passengers through the airport. The busiest times at SEA are during the summer months June through August which saw the busiest days over 145,000 passengers through the airport this year, compared to 2019 of over 185,000 per day.
- 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.
- 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. You can also see the latest Identification and Documentation Requirements.
- Need more travel hacks? Visit the Customer Service webpage for our 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 (ADA) requirements. Check out our SEA Social Story developed for traveler 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.
FlyHealthy@SEA will continue to evolve as travelers return to the airport. For more information, please visit:
Perry Cooper | SEA Airport Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 | firstname.lastname@example.org