Contact: Bob Parker

(206) 431-4923

(206) 405-9663


-Backups at baggage claim create gridlock, delay departing travelers also-

(Seattle)—A recent study shows that at least some of the ground traffic troubles at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport can be attributed to drivers circling the airport’s pickup drive multiple times trying to pick up arriving passengers.

“We learned that 40 percent of cars and drivers on the pickup drive are making at least two trips through the airport before picking up their arriving passenger,” said Michael Civitelli, manager of airport operations. “That adds to traffic on the drives, burns gas, and is a very inefficient way of picking up a friend or loved one.”

Port of Seattle officials are looking at a number of long-term solutions for breaking the gridlock. They also have some tips that drivers can use today:

Check the airline web site to learn the actual arrival time of your friend’s flight. There’s no point in showing up at the scheduled arrival time if the flight is delayed.

Plan to arrive at Sea-Tac 30 minutes after the flight’s actual arrival time. It’ll take that long for your passenger to get off the plane, get out of the concourse to the Main Terminal and collect luggage.

Consider parking in the airport garage and meeting your arriving passenger on foot at the baggage carousel. That’s the most hassle-free way to greet friends or relatives. Parking in the garage costs just $2 for 30 minutes and $4 for up to one hour.

Instead of circling, consider shopping at a nearby store or mall. Have your arriving friend call you on a cell phone once off the plane and in baggage claim.

During peak periods, cars looping around the pickup drive create backups that affect the ticketing drive. The departure and pickup lanes merge onto the recirculation ramps, meaning that a backup at baggage claim can slow passengers trying to get to outbound flights.

“It’s one thing to be stuck in a backup when you’re coming to pick someone up,” said Civitelli. “It’s quite another for someone with a departing flight to be caught in unnecessary gridlock.”

One of the airport’s long-term solutions is to lengthen the route drivers must take to return to either the pickup or departure drive. Currently there is a short recirculation route that loops around the airport garage. Changes to the roadway system over the next few years will require drivers to go all the way north to 160th Street South to loop back around.

Over the last few months, air travel numbers have rebounded at Sea-Tac. The number of passengers has grown steadily since November, and airport officials expect a strong summer season.