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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
How is SEA addressing traveler safety?

In April 2020 we launched FlyHealthy@SEA, a multi-layered strategy to ensure the safety and well-being of the traveling public and airport workers. Initial actions included enhanced cleaning, physical distancing, communication and partner collaboration. Compliance in our face covering or mask requirement is at over 90 percent.

The FlyHealthy@SEA Action Plan details the airport's actions to protect you now and the work underway for the next phase for traveling safely in our new normal.

The program continues to evolve as travelers return to the airport. We are ready for you when you’re ready to travel.

 

How is SEA enforcing physical distancing?

Public health officials recommend maintaining six feet of space from others. Travelers should practice physical distancing in queues, transacting with food concessionaires, boarding aircraft and in seating areas. This is a shared responsibility by: 

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

Travelers will see reconfigured spaces such as sit-down dining and security checkpoints lines to encourage physical distancing. We added signage and floor markings with reminders to keep space and installed plastic protective barriers to buffer interactions between travelers and airport workers.  

     

    What is SEA's policy on face coverings?

    Passengers, visitors, and airport workers are required to wear face coverings or masks over their mouths and noses in the public areas of the airport.Thank you for helping us to reach well over 90% compliance! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks with exhalation valves or vents should not be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    This recommendation is consistent with local health authorities’ orders and guidance, as well as the policies of our airline partners that require 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. The Port of Seattle requires all passengers, visitors, and airport workers to wear face coverings or masks over their mouths and noses in the public areas of the airport, subject to certain limited exceptions.

    Numerous domestic and international airlines require travelers to wear face coverings. Some airlines require masks on all flights regardless of medical exemptions. Travelers should check with your airline to understand this requirement. 

    Are airport shops and restaurants open?

    Most airport restaurants and shops are open for businessLearn how airport dining and retail tenants are protecting passengers and employees during the pandemic, and our airport actions with FlyHealthy@SEA.

    Also, many airlines suspended in-flight meals or offer reduced food and beverage service with pre-packaged items. Explore this guide for locally-owned and Pacific Northwest-inspired options at SEA for grab-and-go snacks, meals, and beverages to enjoy on your flight.

    Is COVID-19 testing available at SEA?

    We are evaluating the feasibility of offering COVID-19 testing services as this becomes critical for passengers traveling to destinations with quarantines. In the meantime, King County Public Health offers information on COVID-19 testing and locations at www.kingcounty.gov/covid/testing.

    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.

    What is the international arrivals 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.

    Effective Sept. 14, the federal government adjusted COVID-19 entry screenings protocols for international air passengers. Enhanced entry health screening for international passengers has halted. The requirement for directing all flights carrying airline passengers at 1 of 15 designated airports (including SEA) is no longer in effect and all airports can accept international travelers again.

    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 self-quarantine. Recommended precautions include stay home for 14 days after arrival, self-monitor for symptoms, avoid contact with people at higher risk for severe illness, and follow 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 have announced quarantine requirements for travelers, such as Alaska and Hawaii.  

    Where are the hand sanitizers in the airport?

    The airport added 280 hand sanitizing stations for your use throughout the terminal.

    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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