- 2004 passenger travel up nearly eight percent over 2003 -

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport set a new record for numbers of passengers in 2004. The Port of Seattle announced today that 28.8 million passengers passed through Sea-Tac last year. That's a 7.48% increase over 2003.

Growth started early in the year, with April 2004 being the busiest April in the history of the airport. The trend harkens back to the 1990s, when some years saw double-digit growth.

Though some portion of the increase may be attributable to the low airfares offered by airlines, Airport Managing Director Mark Reis believes travel also has rebounded because the industry addressed many of the "hassle-factors" associated with higher security requirements implemented during the last few years.

"Our goal was always to create an airport that is both safe and efficient. We think we've been successful, and the numbers seem to bear that out," Reis said.

Reis credits a partnership between the airport, the airlines and the Transportation Security Administration with making the necessary changes. Never was that more visible than during 2004's Thanksgiving holiday travel season.

"We know the passengers were here, but the long lines were not. We remodeled Sea-Tac to make it more efficient. Airlines and the TSA staffed appropriately. As a result we had the best Thanksgiving in decades," Reis said.

Sea-Tac's air cargo numbers may be a sign that the economy is improving. Airfreight at Sea-Tac was up by nearly two percent over 2003. International freight was up by more than 12 percent, with exports to Asia setting an airport record. The only cargo area to decrease was airmail, which followed a nationwide trend due to increase usage of e-mail for both business and personal messages.

One important number that is down is the number of passenger flights in and out of Sea-Tac. Airlines have switched to larger aircraft, which means they are making fewer flights while carrying more passengers.

"The newer aircraft, even though larger, are much quieter," said Reis. "There are fewer flights with quieter aircraft, and overall noise effects are shrinking."

Port staff is predicting a more reserved three percent rate of growth for 2005. But this will be a big year at Sea-Tac, regardless. In May, the airport continues its remodeling efforts with the opening of the renovated and expanded Central Terminal with great eating and shopping opportunities. Anthony's will be the anchor restaurant, with Border's Books and Ex-Officio clothing as major retail outlets. A community open house is scheduled Saturday, June 4.

"We'll have a centerpiece once again," said Reis. "It'll be a great place for travelers to eat, shop or take time to simply gaze at the Olympic Mountains while waiting for their flight."