“Be a Hero” for SEA Airport Holiday Travel Season to Fly Through Traffic and Long Lines


Spot Saver extends opening hours, Central Terminal reopens, expect crowded parking and arrive early!

There’s an easy way to be “a hero” when it comes to holiday crowds at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA): Avoid traffic jams and lines! It doesn’t take a course, just a little pre-planning and you’ll be “a hero” to your fellow travelers or your family while making it easy for you! How do you say?

  • Take the hassle out of driving with Sound Transit’s light rail – the best option for getting out of a traffic jam.
  • Parking at the airport will be a challenge. Consider other modes of transportation to/from the airport, such as a taxi or a ride-sharing option.
  • Change it to speed it up! – Early morning and late evening drivers, this is for you. Use arrivals/lower level to drop off in the morning and departures/upper level to pick up in the evening!
  • Use SEA Spot Saver to reserve your place in the TSA line – with extended hours until 10:00 p.m.
  • Try Order SEA, a mobile ordering service for door-to-door food delivery from anywhere in the airport or pick up so you can grab and go to your door, and
  • 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.

What’s new?

  • The central terminal is reopening! Construction has been long during the pandemic, but you’ll soon be able to climb back up to our iconic wall of windows in Central Terminal as the renovation project takes its next big step. More space, more technology, more seats, it’s all coming. In addition, new dining and retail spaces will soon be available.
  • SEA Spot Saver is a success and we have extended the opening hours to 22:00. Previously, the advanced check-in option for security screening lines was only available during the busiest hours of the day, until 1:00 p.m. Now afternoon and evening free service options can make your journey more predictable and efficient until 10:00 p.m. Enjoy!
  • SEA Airport encourages travelers to plan ahead, arrive early, be prepared for traffic jams and find ways to make your trip easier with advanced planning.
  • Airport parking will be a challenge — The good news is that the new automatic parking guidance system continues to improve your experience in the garage with easy-to-use lighting marking available/occupied spaces with green/red lights. At present, five of the eight floors have been completed, with the remainder expected to be completed in early 2023 and expected to reduce the time it takes to find a stand by 50%. The parking supply remains low throughout the airport area. Allow up to 45 minutes to find a spot on the busiest days. Pre-reserved parking is limited and is already full for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. We recommend that you book your parking as early as possible during peak periods. Your best bet is to find other ways to get to the airport, such as public transit, light rail, or carpooling!

In numbers

Passenger numbers over the holiday season are expected to come even closer to pre-pandemic levels – forecast to be around 95% of 2019. That would be around 13% more than last year.

The busiest days are expected to be Wednesday November 23, with an expected 155,000 passengers traveling through the airport (departure, arrival and connection). The next busiest will be Friday, November 18, projecting 146,000 total passengers through the airport, followed by Saturday, November 26 with 142,000 travelers expected through the airport. Pre-pandemic passenger numbers reached 185,000 per day during Labor Day weekend in 2019. Overall, the busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays, TSA security checkpoints being busiest at SEA from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. :00, 14:00 – 17:00 and 21:00 – 23:00

SEA’s latest passenger forecast for 2022 will be around 11% below 2019 levels, with a 6% drop in 2023 and a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. For more information, see our Statistics page.

What’s the best advice for travellers?

Arrive early! Depending on your needs, you may need more time. Make sure you are at the airport at least two hours before boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight

Be prepared with your airline in advance! Be sure to check their baggage policies, check in, and download all of their apps for efficient travel. Discover our best luggage tips!

Masks are not required at the airport, but strongly recommended by the CDC to be worn during travel. Check your destination’s COVID-19 requirements for entry. If required, XpresCheck offers baggage claim testing.

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 airport walkways. Violators will be cited as Port of Seattle Police are working with the Washington State Patrol to emphasize patrolling during the holidays.

Other Ways to Get to SEA Airport

  • 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 cycle to the airport with bike racks and two ways to get to the airport by bike.
  • If you still plan to park, allow 45 to 60 minutes to find a space. Off-site car parks should also be very busy or already full
  • If you are picking up or dropping off relatives:

Give me the basics of the traveler

  1. The CDC advice for travelers changes based on your COVID-19 vaccination status. Check with your airline for the state or country where you plan to travel.
  2. 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 and be prepared to present your boarding pass for examination. You can also view the latest identification and documentation requirements.
  3. Need more travel tips? Our Customer Care team has the best advice for navigating SEA like a great traveler.
  4. SEA continues to add new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 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.
  5. Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that could hinder your access to the airport.


Perry Cooper | Port of Seattle Senior Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 | cooper.p@portseattle.org


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