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COVID-19 at SEA Airport FAQs

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

The Port of Seattle and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) began its COVID-19 response at the end of January when public health officials confirmed the first case of the virus in Washington state. Since then, we have implemented protocols to maintain the health, safety, and well-being of our employees, travelers, and community members who use Port facilities, while maintaining the essential functions of the Port.

Read on for answers to your questions. Additionally, we are sharing COVID-19 status updates at SEA Airport as more information becomes available for the traveling public. 

Get updates on SEA Airport operations
Is the airport open?

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is open and operating. The airport expanded its efforts with cleaning protocols to protect the traveling public.

The Port of Seattle supports efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining essential operations. In response to Governor Jay Inslee’s “stay at home” order issued on March 23, 2020, Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck made the following comment: “Critical Port facilities and operations are still open. We are doing everything we can to support those staying home while keeping Port facilities safe for those who do essential work.”

Please check with your airline directly if there are impacts to your flight. Most airlines have a website alert on COVID-19 impacts, so the information is easy to find!

Other resources:

Why is the airport still open?

The Port of Seattle’s mission is to promote economic opportunities and quality of life in the region by advancing trade, travel, commerce, and job creation in an equitable, accountable, and environmentally responsible manner. As the operator of SEA, we are committed to serving our region through air travel, and we enhanced protocols to maintain the safety, health, and well-being of passengers and employees using the airport to do. 

How is SEA addressing traveler safety?

Looking ahead to travel restrictions easing and traffic increasing, we are working with other airports and local public health officials through several national and regional task forces, including other West Coast airports to evaluate what facility adjustments could be made at SEA. The aim is to be consistent throughout airports recognizing the changing nature of the current situation while also being grounded in science and providing comfort and safety assurances for travelers.

The FlyHealthy@SEA program is a coordinated, layered approach to ensure the health and well-being of travelers, visitors, and workers at SEA Airport. Beginning May 18, travelers, visitors, and airport workers are required to wear face coverings throughout the public areas of the airport, subject to certain limited exceptions. Travelers should wear their face coverings throughout the airport and be prepared to adjust their face coverings so officers can visually confirm their identity during TSA screening.
In addition to the installation of 240 hand sanitizers and increased disinfection in high-touch areas, travelers will see additional enhancements such as reconfiguration of spaces to encourage physical distancing as well as efforts to address high contact areas. 

The FlyHealthy@SEA program will continue to adopt and deploy new safety measures based on the latest guidance from public health officials.

The health, safety, and wellness of our community come first. As more travelers return to traveling, our goal is to make SEA the safest airport in the country. 

How is SEA enforcing physical distancing?

The Port of Seattle supports efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 while maintaining essential operations at SEA. We encourage travelers to practice physical distancing in queues such as ticketing, security checkpoints, transacting with food concessionaires, and boarding aircraft as well as in seating areas at gates. Public health officials recommend maintaining six feet of space from others.

Through the FlyHealthy@SEA program, travelers will see additional enhancements such as reconfiguration of spaces to encourage physical distancing as well as efforts to address high contact areas. These include:

  • FlyHeathy @ SEA informational signs on physical distancing throughout the airport
  • Floor markings for physical distancing at checkpoints
  • Plexiglass separators/sneeze guards

Physical separation will be encouraged as a shared responsibility with travelers to help protect themselves, fellow travelers, and airport employees by: 

  • Maintaining your distance of six feet or two meters from others
  • Practice using every fourth step on escalators
  • No more than four in an elevator

The FlyHealthy @ SEA program will continue to adopt and deploy new safety measures based on the latest guidance from public health officials.
 

What is SEA's policy on face coverings?

Effective May 18, 2020, the Port of Seattle requires all passengers, visitors, and airport workers to wear face coverings over their mouths and noses in the public areas of the airport, subject to certain limited exceptions. This recommendation is consistent with local health authorities’ orders and guidance, as well as the policies of our airline partners that are requiring passengers to wear face coverings while in a gate area and onboard flights; travelers should check with their airlines to understand what requirements are applicable to their flights.

Travelers should wear their face coverings throughout the airport, including during the TSA screening process, but be prepared to adjust their face coverings so that officers can visually confirm their identity. The focus will be on compliance through education and encouragement. For more details including applicable exceptions, read the Port’s policy.

In addition to asking everyone traveling through, visiting, or working in the airport to wear a face covering, SEA is taking a number of steps to help protect travelers and employees. Face covering use does not replace the need to practice all other measures including physical distancing (staying away from ill people, staying home and avoiding all non-essential activities and contact with others), frequent handwashing, and avoiding touching of the face.

The Port began providing face coverings to its staff working in public-facing roles on April 17. Many partners across Port facilities also recommend or require face coverings for employees and passengers as an added safety measure — this includes airlines, retail and dining tenants, and government agencies including TSA, and CDC, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
 

What airlines require face coverings?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing face coverings in public settings where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Effective May 18, 2020, the Port of Seattle requires all passengers, visitors, and airport workers to wear face coverings over their mouths and noses in the public areas of the airport, subject to certain limited exceptions, until further notice.

Beginning in May 2020, numerous domestic and international airlines are requiring travelers to wear face coverings. Here is a list of carriers with known face covering requirements; however, it may not be comprehensive (last updated: May 4, 2020). If you have a question about your travel, the best advice is to check with your airline.

Domestic Carriers:

International Carriers:

  • Air Canada: Effective April 20 
  • Air France: Effective May 11 
  • ANA: Effective May 2
  • EVA Air: Face coverings are not mandatory, but N95 respirator masks and medical masks available on all EVA flights
  • Korean Air: In effect 
Can SEA establish temperature screening?

Once again, the situation continues to be fluid, however, at this time the FAA informed us that public health screening is generally not considered proper use of airport revenue for a federally obligated airport like SEA. The Port continues to consult with federal agencies and local public health officials on this issue and recognizes that consistent protocols for airports across the country will be vital.

Are airport shops and restaurants open?

Some airport restaurants are open with reduced operating hours and food service only for grab-and-go and orders to go. Passengers are not allowed to sit in certain seating areas or at the bars. Read about the latest adjustments as dining and retail tenants shift hours of operation or close temporarily

Should I travel?

The decision to travel is up to you and your family. The Governor and King County Health’s order limiting mandating physical distancing does not include transportation systems such as airports. These are five key ways to stay healthy when you fly.

Are you accepting flights from other countries?

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) does not have the authority to regulate air travel, schedule flights, or close the airport. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulates the civil aviation industry and maintaining air traffic control. Individual airlines determine and manage their flight routes, not the airport.

  • SEA is accepting flights from destinations that are not restricted by the Federal Government. 
  • Airlines operating at SEA suspended international flights and reduced service. Airlines flying domestic routes significantly reduced flights across networks. If you have a question about your travel, the best advice is to check with your airline

What are the current travel restrictions?

Travel restrictions mandated by the federal government include:

  • Issuing a Level 4 Travel Advisory, the U.S. State Department's highest alert level, encouraging all U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel. Those who are currently abroad are advised to return home.
  • Suspending entry of foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, and numerous countries within the European Union* for the last 14 days (*Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom) 
  • Directing Americans returning to the U.S. from certain European countries, China, or Iran to one of 13 U.S. airports, including our airport, and directing to voluntary self-quarantine under CDC best practices
  • Screening of Americans returning from South Korea before they travel to the United States
What is the screening process?

Screening is performed by federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not by the airport.

To help prevent the spread of travel-related cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a notice of arrival restrictions outlining the process for American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are returning home after recently visiting high-risk countries. The international arrivals process changes frequently and may be slightly different for every passenger depending upon their itinerary or health status. However, every passenger entering the U.S. at SEA goes through the three steps below.

Screening Process at SEA

  • Step 1: CBP Manifest Review and Destination Analysis — CBP officers use a combination of traveler history records, officer questioning and observation, and self-declarations to identify individuals requiring enhanced health screening.
  • Step 2: CDC Self-reported Health Screening Questionnaire — Travelers complete the survey on the plane on the plane before arrival rather than in the international facility. If travelers are not coming from areas of concern and are not reporting or displaying symptoms, they will go through passport control as normal and questionnaires may or may not be collected.
  • Step 3: CDC Physical Screening — CDC officers monitor passengers as they come into international arrivals, watching for physical symptoms of the disease like coughing, runny nose, and others. Not every passenger receives a physical screening. If passengers do not report or demonstrate any COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be screened.

Some passengers are given a health education flyer upon arrival depending upon the factors above with quarantine instructions at their final destination.

What are the quarantine guidelines following travel?

International Travel 
U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning to the U.S. are directed to voluntary self-quarantine under CDC best practices. The U.S. government recommends that travelers stay home voluntarily for 14 days after traveling from countries with widespread ongoing transmission or on cruise ships or river cruises. Recommended precautions include staying home until 14 days after arrival and maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others, self-monitoring for symptoms, avoiding contact with people at higher risk for severe illness, and following CDC guidance if symptoms develop. 

Domestic Travel 
There is no federal restriction for domestic travel. The state of Washington does not require those entering the state to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Numerous other states announced quarantine requirements for travelers, including Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia. 

Additionally, on March 28, 2020, the CDC issued a domestic travel advisory for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut urging residents of those states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days, effective immediately.
 

Where are the hand sanitizers in the airport?

The airport has added 240 hand sanitizing stations with more to come. The hand sanitizers are located throughout the airport facilities.

What if someone who works at the airport tests positive for COVID-19?

All airport employers are expected to follow appropriate public health protocols and notifications if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. 

Employees who interact with the traveling public

The standard protocols are to:

  1. Alert the Port’s Health and Wellness staff who will investigate the potential for exposure to the traveling public.
  2. Update the COVID-19 Status Updates at SEA Airport page when an airport employee who interacts with the public tests positive for COVID-19. If there was no risk of exposure to the public, no public notification will occur. 
  3. Temporarily close impacted areas for additional cleaning.
  4. Employees or travelers who believe they may have been in contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19 should consult with their healthcare provider.

Employees who do not interact with the traveling public

The Central Terminal construction project was previously closed for two weeks due to a report of COVID-19 and the International Arrivals Facility construction project was closed to disinfect the jobsite. In both cases, the employee had no interaction with travelers so there was no public notification.

A few Port of Seattle employees and construction contractors have tested positive for COVID-19. In these situations, the Port follows the CDC and Public Health employer guidance and the following protocols:

  1. Alert the Port’s Health and Wellness staff to communicate with all and all potential co-workers who could have come into close contact with the employee. Assess the risk of exposure to the public. 
  2. Notify all impacted coworkers if applicable.
  3. Temporarily close impacted areas for additional cleaning.
  4. No notifications to the general public are made if there was no risk of public exposure.
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