Sea-Tac Airport has new App to help guide users during ‘busiest summer ever’

By Perry Cooper

A new, wide ranging computer application will assist over 15.6 million travelers expected to pass through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this summer. This is nearly one-third of the total passenger count for the year, or an average of nearly 170,000 passengers every day.

This year, Sea-Tac traffic is up 4 percent, airport owner the Port of Seattle said.

The busy season kicks into gear this coming weekend (June 14, 15,16) when several local school districts break for summer vacation. With construction underway on one million square feet of new or renovated facilities that Sea-Tac Airport officials are advising summer passengers to visit.

“Summer is an exciting time of the year,” said Lance Lyttle, Aviation Managing Director. “We are adding staff, making facilities investments, and focusing on customer service to help everyone get the most out of their summer travel.”

Eighth busiest
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA, KSEA) is ranked as the eighth busiest U.S. airport, serving 49.8 million passengers and more than 432,315 metric tons of air cargo in 2018. With a regional economic impact of more than $22.5 billion in business revenue, Sea-Tac generates more than 151,400 jobs representing over $3.6 billion in direct earnings and more than $442 million in state and local taxes.

Thirty-two airlines serve 91 non-stop domestic and 29 international destinations including Canada, Mexico and seasonal operations. From June 4 through Sept. 4, over 15.6 million passengers are expected to go through Sea-Tac Airport, exceeding just over 15 million in the summer of 2018, a 4 percent increase.

That’s an average of 170,000 passengers a day through the airport. In fact, July and August of last year were the first months ever with total passengers in excess of 5 million. Airport officials are expecting the same this year.

With more than $3 billion in capital development underway, passengers will continue seeing something new at Sea-Tac Airport every 90 days. In just the last five months alone, Sea-Tac Airport opened 15 new restaurants. Major ongoing projects that make travel more efficient, expand passenger space, and offer new amenities include the North Satellite Modernization, International Arrivals Facility, Central Terminal Renovation Project, and, the Baggage System Upgrade.

The Port of Seattle and FAA are also conducting an environmental review of more than 30 Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP) Near-Term Projects that will improve efficiency, safety, access to the airport. Highlights include a new terminal with 19 gates, and an automated people mover with three stations to connect the rental car facility, new terminal, and main terminal. Near-Term Projects will be complete or under construction by 2027.

Plan ahead, arrive early
Passengers should plan ahead and arrive early. Officials recommend people should get there two hours ahead of time for a domestic flight and three hours for an international flight. Avoid driving if you can. Airport officials suggest passengers use light rail, public transit, taxis, airport shuttle or ride-share vehicles.

The Port of Seattle has hired over 30 additional customer service staff for summer rush and they are dressed in red or teal. They are the experts who are at the airport every day. They have what could be time-saving suggestions.

For example, the shortest line at the checkpoints isn’t always the fastest. The fastest line may be longer because that checkpoint has more lanes to process travelers. Airport staff will direct you to the best option.

Automated screening lanes are expanded lanes with improved technology. The automated lanes offer more efficient processing and are now available at checkpoints two and five. Checkpoint number 4 will have a new lane in mid-June and checkpoint 1 will add another lane by early July, both for TSA PreCheck travelers. Sea-Tac has upgraded checkpoint technology with infra-red sensors that provide more accurate, real-time wait times.

‘App’ opens possibilities
The new Sea-Tac App displays security checkpoint wait times and is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Airport officials urge passengers —both summer tourists and regular business users —
to download the Sea-Tac Airport App to watch security checkpoint wait times, search for your flight, find yourself on the terminal map and navigate to restaurants, lounges, the meditation room or your favorite shop. Also, use multiple other apps to help you navigate and enjoy the airport.

For example, you can sign up for text alerts and get text updates about what’s happening at the airport by texting “Update” to 206-347-8045.

App users can sign up for Trusted Traveler Programs such as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Also consider signing up for CLEAR to get you through the lines faster. These expedited security programs help for both domestic and international travel, including a faster way through customs with Automated Passport Control and Mobile Passport Control.

Dining options throughout Sea-Tac like Evergreens Salad, Qdoba and Beecher’s offer online and mobile ordering. Several of our fast, casual restaurants such as Camden Foods Co., McDonald’s and Pei Wei Asian Kitchen offer ordering kiosks for travelers to skip the line. Lucky Louie’s is one of the new restaurants now open in the first phase of the Central Terminal renovation project.

Airport officials suggest using the App to monitor security checkpoint wait times, search for your flight, and map the restaurants, lounges, salon, meditation room, children’s play area, stores, or other services you want to visit.

Security checkpoint wait times are unpredictable, plan to arrive early in case of long lines. Taking carry-on food items slows screening and large food items could trigger additional screening.Sound Transit’s Link light rail is a convenient option for getting to and from Sea-Tac Airport.

Some suggestions
Arrive early because security checkpoint wait times are unpredictable. Officials says people should plan on arriving at the airport at least two hours in advance for a domestic flight, and three hours for international travel. To save time, print your boarding pass and check your flight status at home. Some airlines allow you to print luggage tags in as well. This saves time at the ticket counter.

Avoid driving if you can and take light rail, public transit, taxis, airport shuttles or ride-share vehicles.

The Port of Seattle run airport officials suggest that public transportation is “by far the best option if you want to stay out of a traffic jam.”

Use Link Light Rail to travel all the way to the airport or meet your party at one of the nearby stations. Tukwila and Angle Lake stations offer free short-term parking one stop away to avoid airport traffic headaches. There are also a free shuttle cart service for those who may need the extra help from the station to the airport terminal.

When taking people to Sea-Tac In the morning, drop off passengers on the Arrivals level. In the evenings, then arrange to meet your passengers on the Departures level.

Peak traffic congestion occurs on Departure from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. During the middle of the day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., both Arrivals and Departure experience backups. In the evenings, the Arrivals drive experiences heavy traffic from about 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Going opposite gets you out of the traffic crunch.

Checklist for arrivals
If picking up passengers, airport officials suggest making sure they are there before going to the drive. It will take some time for them to walk from the plane or pickup bags.

Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that might hinder your access to the airport.

Be ready for security checkpoints. Once travelers get to the airport, Sea-Tac and the Transportation Security Administration say they want to help people move through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from their carryon luggage. That takes time.

Airport experts suggest keeping food or liquids in your carry-on luggage might mean you have to be screened twice. Pack it in checked luggage if possible, they suggest.

New shops, restaurants
There are severalBon appétit! Sea-Tac Airport opened 15 new dining options so far this year. There is Lucky Louie Fish Shack, Evergreens Salad, Pallino Pastaria, Pei Wei Asian Kitchen, and Koi Shi Sushi Bento are new quick service eateries in the Central Terminal that are sure to satisfy every palate.

There are other fresh additions which include Caffe D’arte, Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen and Skillet that are serving up espresso, Vietnamese cuisine and gourmet comfort foods in the N Gates, plus Le Grand Comptior on Concourse C, serving hand-picked Pacific Northwest wines as well as sit down bistro-inspired foods. Also, later this year Concourse D will see the opening of Ballard Brew Hall and Poke to the Max.

Interior view of the International Arrivals Facility under construction, May 2019.

Perry Cooper is the senior manager of media relations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.


One Response to “Sea-Tac Airport has new App to help guide users during ‘busiest summer ever’”
  1. Deb says:

    Two and three hour advance arrival times and requests not to drive are not improvements in customer service, as far as I can see. So much of this article puts the onus on the traveler to take care of airport induced inconveniences. For instance, telling us that there is free short term parking at Tukwila station and Angle Lake station is not helpful, since there is only parking available at these sites before 7 AM or after 4:30 PM. I’m not even going to touch their “environmental” SAMP plan that involves more terminals,gates and car rentals.
    It’ll be a long summer.

Share Your Opinion

By participating in our online comment system, you are agreeing to abide by the terms of our comment policy.

...and oh, if you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!