The last days of summer are here, and you won’t be alone if you’re traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) for the Labor Day holiday. About 10 percent more travelers will be at the gates during the holidays compared to last year. That’s still 10 percent less than pre-pandemic levels, but travelers won’t notice the difference – it’ll be busy! With this in mind, SEA Airport is encouraging travelers to think ahead, arrive early, prepare for overcrowding and find ways to make your trip easier with advanced planning or Become an Airport Hero!
Parking will continue to be a challenge as more commuters use their own vehicles, although our new automated parking guidance system now has four of the eight floors completed! Alternative ways to get to SEA are encouraged, such as use of rideshares, Link Light Rail and public transport. Please allow extra time to avoid tight squeezes to get to your flight. Better sooner than later!
Passenger numbers for the Labor Day holiday are expected to be 10 percent higher than in 2021 — that’s about 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels from 2019. August volumes were ahead of July with a projection of about 4.7 million passengers for the month (compared to about 4.6 million for July). By July, total passenger traffic for 2022 stood at 25.4 million, down 13.8 percent from 2019 levels (29.5 million) but up 37 percent from 2021 (18.5 million).
Some additional interesting facts in numbers:
- International travel is recovering in VSM with more services available now than before the pandemic. New airlines (Turkish Airlines, Finnair and Tahiti Nui in October) and new destinations (Edmonton/Alaska Airlines, Montreal/Air Canada) have been added this year, bringing the total to 45 international services to 28 destinations from 25 airlines this fall. .
- European travel recovered to 100% of 2019 levels in July.
- Mexico / Central America services grew 263% in July versus 2019.
- All services in China have not yet resumed due to pandemic restrictions.
The busiest days are expected to be Friday, September 2, with an estimated 155,000 passengers traveling through the airport (departure, arrival and connection). The next busiest will be Thursday, September 1, with an estimated 149,000 total passengers through the airport, followed by Monday, September 5 with an estimated 146,000 travelers through the airport. Pre-pandemic ridership reached as high as 185,000 per day over Labor Day weekend in 2019. In general, the busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays, as well as Sundays and Mondays, with checkpoints of busiest TSA security at VSM from 5 to 10 am. 2-5pm and 9-11pm
SEA’s latest passenger numbers forecast for 2022 will be around 10% below 2019 levels with 2023 down 3%, returning to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. Find out more at our Statistics page.
What is the best advice for travelers?
- Come here early! Depending on your needs, you may need more time. Make sure you are at the airport at least two hours before boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight
- Masks are not required at the airport, but are highly recommended by the CDC to be worn during travel. Check the destination’s COVID-19 entry requirements. If needed, XpresCheck has testing available at the baggage claim level.
- The SEA Airport parking garage continues to be busy. Think about alternative ways of traveling to get to the airport or arriving 45 minutes early to find a place to park.
- Worried about checkpoints? Use the SEA Spot Saver to reserve your spot in the TSA line and avoid congested airport security lines
- Download (or update!) the flySEA app for live checkpoint wait times. As a bonus, it’s also a one-stop source for commuter alerts, parking spot tracker, maps and more information
- Prepare with your airline ahead of time! Make sure you check their baggage policies, check in and download all their apps for an efficient trip. See our top luggage tips!
- Use Order SEAour mobile ordering service, including food delivery from around the airport or takeout so you can grab and go to your gate.
- Get ahead of the game! Download your airline’s app to check in your flight, download your boarding pass and pay for your bag.
- Explore the latest food and retail in your competition! Including two new small business stores near Gate A1 that recently opened, Glass Eye Studio and Africa’s Best!
Parking at the airport will be a challenge
Why is parking so congested? Demand is up and supply is down. More customers are driving private vehicles than opting for ride sharing or public transportation. Pandemic-related closures reduced the number of parking stalls in the off-airport area, while a garage improvement project and a recent fire have led to temporary reductions in the SEA garage. Shortages of shuttle bus drivers also continue to impact the availability of off-site parking options for airport employees.
Safety first; Avoid shoulder parking
Vehicles are encouraged to use the newly reconfigured mobile bay and avoid dangerous parking along the airport’s car shoulders. Violators will be cited as the Port of Seattle Police are working with the Washington State Patrol for heightened patrols during the holiday.
Pro tip: Turn it on to speed it up! If a car at the airport is overloaded, use the next one that is open to pick up and drop off passengers!
Alternative way to reach SEA Airport
- Avoid the hassle of driving with Sound Transit’s Light Rail Link. Public transport is definitely the best option if you want to stay out of traffic jams
- Take a ride with a taxi or app-based services like Uber and Lyft, or other modes of ground transportation
- Rent your ride. All car rental companies operate an off-site car rental facility where dedicated buses transport passengers free of charge 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
- Pedal Power! Yes, you can even bike to the airport with bike racks and two ways to get into the airport by bike
- If you still plan to park, wait 45-60 minutes to find a stall. Even the off-site parking facilities are expected to be very busy or already full
- If you are picking up or leaving loved ones:
Give me Traveler Basics
- CDC guidance for travelers varies depending on your COVID-19 vaccination status. Check with your airline for the country or country you plan to travel to.
- Be prepared for security checkpoints. SEA and TSA want to help you get through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Passengers are asked to remove electronic devices larger than a mobile phone from their carry-on luggage. Also, remove food and liquids from your carry-on and be prepared to carry your boarding pass for screening. You can also see the latest identification and documentation requirements.
- Need more travel hacks? Our Customer Care team has the best tips for navigating SEA as a frequent flyer.
- SEA continues to add new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Check out our SEA Social Story developed for travelers with sensory sensitivities like autism, but also great general tips for kids. Learn more about accessibility in SEA. The interactive map in the flySEA app provides accessible route guidance.
- Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that may impede your entry to the airport.
Perry Cooper | Senior Media Officer at the Port of Seattle
(206) 787-4923 | [email protected]