Seattle Southside is blowing up. Over the last few years, the region has experienced such a growth in development and population, that some locals have aptly named the area "the region of boom." The same can be said for Sea-Tac Airport and the Port of Seattle. The number of travelers and flights going through Sea-Tac has increased exponentially over the last decade or two, culminating in a total of 42 million passengers passing through the airport last year. If you tried to get through TSA at Sea-Tac earlier this year, none of this should be news to you.
Aviation Director Lance Lyttle and the Port of Seattle are working hard to keep up with the boom, which brings us the Port U Airport Tour. The event started off with Mr. Lyttle's presentation discussing the growth and the port's plans to expand and renovate the airport. He emphasized the fact that Sea-Tac is the fastest growing airport in the United States and then detailed some of what we can expect to see in the coming years. For example, by 2021, the NorthStar satellite modernization expansion will be complete, as well as the brand new international arrivals facility. What will the port need from us during all of this construction? Patience.
Something to look forward to in the near future at Sea-Tac would be the anticipated October 18th opening of Delta's new Sky Club, which looks to be a luxurious way to spend your layover. After the presentations, it was time to get on the busses and cruise around the runways. It was strange being on the tarmac in a vehicle that wasn't about to reach a 10,000 feet cruising altitude, but I enjoyed it. The tour was very informative, and after driving around a bit, we deplaned the bus and boarded a Delta Airlines 767. For a few minutes at least, I finally sat in a first class seat. Not bad, but for my money, I'll stick to the economy class middle seat with two sleeping seniors resting on my shoulders any day.
The final stop of the tour was the international arrivals area with some of the gentlemen (and K9s) from Customs & Border Protection. I found this part to be quite interesting as we had the opportunity to see the drug-sniffing dog, Pancho, check bags for drugs (well, pseudo-drugs in this case) and rip into them when he found what he was looking for. Also, passengers from an international flight were arriving so we got to witness how they check-in to the U.S.A. using the futuristic global entry machines.
Overall, the Port U Airport Tour was an enlightening and enjoyable experience. I can't wait to see how the airport looks a decade from now. For the time being, I'll be sure to arrival a couple hours early...just to be safe.
Interesting facts from the tour:
- The longest flight from Sea-Tac is 14 hours to Dubai, UAE.
- About 50% of international flights arrive at Sea-Tac within an hour of noon. So, try to avoid this time, unless you like long customs lines.
- Many international flights have crew bunks in the belly of the aircraft so the crew can take naps.
- Different dogs search for different things. Some bite and dig into a bag when they find drugs, while other dogs that search people will simply sit in front of you if you are carrying drugs.
- One of the most interesting things to ever be checked (or attempt to be checked) on an international flight through Sea-Tac was an adult white tiger.