For many travelers, the wait is over and it’s time to escape through the airport. With that in mind, travelers are urged to arrive early and be patient via Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
Memorial Day holiday trips will see an increase in numbers, about a third more than in 2020, while a compression from the effects of the pandemic requires advanced planning for a smooth experience.
More and more travelers continue to use their own vehicle to arrive at the airport, so parking will be an ongoing challenge. Alternate means of getting to SEA are encouraged, such as carpooling, Link light rail, and public transportation. As in other areas of the region, once inside the airport, staffing issues affect services from checkpoints to concessions to airlines. Please allow extra time to avoid tight hugs to get to your flight. Better sooner than later!
The rise and compression
The number of travelers during the Memorial Day holiday is expected to be one-third higher than in 2021, about 80% of pre-pandemic numbers from 2019. The busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays. The busiest times at TSA security checkpoints at SEA are 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The busiest days are expected to be Friday May 20, with just over 150,000 passengers passing through the airport (departure, arrival and connection). The Friday before the holiday, May 27, projects a disembarkation at 137,000 passengers, followed by Thursday, May 26, at 134,000 passengers. It’s close to the busiest days we’ve seen since the pandemic hit in August last year. Pre-pandemic passenger numbers reached 178,000 per day during Memorial Day in 2019. SEA expects passenger numbers for the year to be approximately 6% below 2019 levels with a near full recovery in 2023 at about 1% less than in 2019.
It may have been a while since your last flight, but don’t underestimate the length of your experience during peak periods. Travelers can find stress-free ways to skip the lines and make their trip more predictable.
What’s the best advice for travellers?
- Arrive early! Depending on your needs, you may need more time. Be sure to be at the airport at least two hours before boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.
- Masks are no longer required at the airport, however, the CDC recommends wearing a mask during travel. Check your destination’s COVID-19 requirements for entry, if needed, XpresCheck offers baggage claim testing.
- SEA airport car park continues to be busy. Consider alternative transportation to get to the airport or arrive 45 minutes extra early to find a parking space.
- Use SEA Spot Saver to secure your spot in the TSA line and avoid crowded security lines at the airport.
- Download (or update!) the flySEA app for live checkpoint wait times. As a bonus, it’s also a one-stop resource for traveler alerts, parking spot tracking, maps, and more information.
- Use Order SEA, our mobile ordering service, including door-to-door food delivery from across the airport or pickup so you can grab and go to your door.
Airport parking will be a challenge
Why is the parking lot so crowded? Demand is up and supply is down. More customers drive private vehicles than choose carpooling or public transit. Pandemic-related closures have reduced the number of parking spaces in the area outside the airport, while a garage improvement project and a recent fire have resulted in temporary reductions at the SEA garage. The shortage of shuttle drivers also continues to impact the availability of offsite parking options for airport employees.
Safety first, avoid parking on the shoulder
Vehicles are encouraged to use the new reconfigured mobile phone parking lot and avoid unsafe parking along the shoulder of the airport driveways. Violators will be cited as the Port of Seattle Police is working with the Washington State Patrol to emphasize patrolling during the holidays.
Other Ways to Get to SEA Airport
- Take the hassle out of driving with Sound Transit’s Link light rail. Public transport is by far the best option if you want to avoid traffic jams.
- Take a ride with app-based taxis or rideshares like Uber and Lyft, or other ground transportation.
- Rent your own ride. All car rental companies operate from an off-site rental car center where dedicated shuttles transport passengers free of charge 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Pedal power! Yes, you can even get to the airport by bike with bike racks and two ways to get to the airport by bike. If you still plan to park, wait 45-60 minutes to find a spot
- Off-site parking lots should also be very busy or already full.
- If you are picking up or dropping off relatives:
- Check out the new and improved batch of cell phones! The new access ramp is a game-changer with a better flow of entry and exit, you can pick up your passengers more easily. Use it instead of parking on the shoulder, which is dangerous and illegal!
- Travel tip! Use the Departures Promenade for overnight pickup and the Arrivals Promenade for morning passenger drop-off.
Give me the basics of the traveler
- The CDC’s advice 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 prepared for security checks. SEA and TSA want to help you get through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronic devices larger than a cell phone from carry-on baggage. Also remove food and liquids from your carry-on baggage, be prepared to hold your boarding pass for examination, and wear your mask. You can also view the latest identification and documentation requirements.
- NeedAftertravel tips? Our Customer Care team has the best advice for navigating SEA like a great traveler.
- SEA is adding new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Check out our SEA social story developed for travelers with sensory sensitivities such as autism, as well as great general tips for kids. Learn more about accessibility at SEA. The interactive map on the flySEA app offers accessible routes.
- Check with the City of SeaTacto see if there are any road construction projects that may impede your access to the airport.
Perry Cooper | SEA Airport Press Officer
(206) 787-4923 | [email protected]