Spring has sprung, and travelers are getting back on airplanes!
Air travel is near pre-pandemic levels from now through until mid-April. Keep the spring in your step giving yourself extra time. Parking will be a challenge, and your best option may be to use alternate ways to get to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
By The Numbers
Spring break travel volumes are expected to be 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019. That is close to the busiest days we’ve seen since the pandemic back in August of last year. For spring break, high volume days are expected throughout each week with Thursdays and Fridays as the busiest. The highest volumes will see up to 140-145,000 passengers per day going through the airport. Pre-pandemic passenger numbers reached as high as 160,000 per day during the spring of 2019. SEA forecasts passenger numbers for the year will be about 6% below 2019 levels with near full recovery in 2023 at about 1% less than 2019.
It may have been a while since your last flight through the airport, but do not underestimate how long your experience may take during peak travel periods. Travelers can find stress-free ways to skip the line and make your trip more predictable.
What’s the best advice for travelers?
- Arrive early! Two hours before your boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.
- Masks are still required at the airport – The federal public transportation mask mandate is in effect until April 18, 2022. While local regulations no longer require them, continue to wear your mask over your nose and mouth while traveling. And check your destination’s COVID-19 requirements for entry. Visit XpresCheck if testing is required for your destination, they’re available on the baggage claim level.
- The SEA Airport parking garage is busy. Think of alternate modes of travel to get to the airport or arrive an extra 45 minutes earlier to find a stall
- Use SEA Spot Saver to reserve your spot in the TSA line and avoid congested security lines at the airport.
- Download (or update!) the flySEA App for alerts, maps, info and more.
- Use Order SEA, our mobile ordering service, including gate delivery for food from all over the airport.
Alternate ways to get to SEA Airport
- Avoid the hassles of driving with Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail. Public transit is by far the best option if you want to stay out of a traffic jam.
- Catch a ride with taxis or app-based rideshares like Uber and Lyft, or other modes of ground transportation.
- Rent your own ride. All rental car companies operate at an off-site rental car facility where dedicated shuttle buses transport passengers for free 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year.
- Pedal power! Yes, you can even bicycle to the airport with bike racks and two ways to access the airport on a bike.
- If you still plan to park, expect 45-60 minutes to find a stall. Off-site parking facilities are also expected to be very busy or already full.
- If you’re picking up or dropping off loved ones:
- Check out the new and improved Cell Phone Lot! The new access ramp is a game change with better flow for entry and exiting you can pick up your passengers easier. Use it instead of shoulder parking, which is dangerous and illegal!
- Travel hack! Use the Departures Drive for pickup at night and the Arrivals Drive for passenger drop off in the morning.
Airport Parking Will be a Challenge
Why is parking so congested? Demand is up and supply is down. More customers are driving private vehicles than choosing ride share or public transit. Pandemic-related closures reduced the number of parking stalls in the area outside the airport while a garage improvement project and a recent fire has led to temporary reductions at the SEA garage. Shuttle bus driver shortages 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 new reconfigured cellphone lot and avoid dangerous parking along the shoulder of the airport drives. Violators will be cited as the Port of Seattle Police are working with the Washington State Patrol for emphasis patrols during the holiday.
Give Me the Traveler Basics
- The CDC guidance for travelers changes depending on your COVID-19 vaccination status. Check with your airline for the state or country where you plan to travel.
- Be ready for security checkpoints. SEA and TSA want to help you move through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from carry-on luggage. Also, remove foods and liquids from your carry-on luggage, prepare to hold up your boarding pass for review, and wear your mask. You can also see the latest Identification and Documentation Requirements.
- Need more travel hacks? SEA's Customer Care team has the best advice to navigate SEA like a frequent flier.
- SEA is adding new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Check out the SEA Social Story developed for traveler with sensory sensitivities such as autism, but also great overall tips for kids. Learn more about accessibility at SEA. The interactive map on the flySEA App offers accessible route directions.
- Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that might hinder your access to the airport.