Brace for busy Sea-Tac Airport as travel continues after Christmas – The Seattle Times

The season of airport challenges continues, with about 312,000 passengers expected to travel through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport over the next two days.
Airport officials anticipate passenger volume at Sea-Tac to increase this winter holiday season by about 11% from 2022, which would put it near pre-pandemic levels. Passenger volume is projected to reach a total of 157,000 departing, arriving and connecting passengers on Tuesday (for comparison 158,000 was expected on Saturday, the peak travel day this holiday season), and 155,000 on Wednesday.
But there are ways you can survive the chaos to make your airport experience more predictable and efficient.
In general, the airport recommends arriving at least two hours before domestic travel and three hours before international travel. Travelers should take into account how long it will take them to park or arrive, whether by using off-site parking and a shuttle, parking in the garage, getting dropped off or taking light rail.
Here are some recommendations from the Port of Seattle that are helpful year-round.
Stay up to date on flight delays and cancellations by visiting Passengers can also check daily airport delays and cancellations on tracking website FlightAware.
If you’re driving to Sea-Tac, consider downloading the Washington state Department of Transportation app, available on iOS and Android platforms. The app will show you the best route to take and updates on traffic conditions on all Seattle- and Tacoma-area highways. The app also provides ferry schedules and tolls, mountain pass information and construction updates.
You can also watch the drive cameras on the airport website to see how busy Upper Departures Drive and Lower Arrivals Drive are as you plan your drop-off and pickup.
Prebooking parking at the airport does not reserve a spot but rather allows travelers to prepay for a spot and often get a savings deal compared with the drive-up price. The airport does not offer parking reservations.
If you are considering parking, the airport recommends planning an extra 45 to 60 minutes to find a spot. There’s a new automated parking guidance system that will help you find a spot with lighting that indicates available stalls. Airport parking rates on floors 1-3 and 5-8 increased June 1.
SEA Spot Saver is an appointment program available for all Sea-Tac passengers for security screening. Just like CLEAR, Global Entry and TSA Precheck, the SEA Spot Saver has its own dedicated lane at security checkpoints, so you can skip the general boarding lines.
To use SEA Spot Saver, the airport recommends reserving a time up to 72 hours before your flight because spots are limited. Appointment times are available from one to four hours before departure. If you’re traveling with a group, up to 10 passengers can be booked under one appointment.
Passengers can also sign up at the airport by scanning a QR code on SEA Spot Saver signs throughout the airport.
Then, all you need to do is walk up at your appointment time at your assigned checkpoint to skip the security line. Each appointment has a grace period of 15 minutes.
SEA Spot Saver can be used between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. at checkpoints 2, 3 and 5, which lead to all gates.
The MyTSA app, available on iOS and Android platforms, reminds passengers which items are allowed through security and offers 24-hour information on how to prepare for and get through the security checkpoint quickly. Travelers can request live assistance from the Transportation Security Administration, verify checkpoint wait times at the airport, and sign up for TSA Precheck through the app.
MyTSA also contains daily tips for getting through security, packing and traveling with children.
The FlySEA app is available on iOS and Android platforms. The app allows passengers to:
Passengers can text YES1 to 27829 to receive regular updates and alerts on Sea-Tac operations and services. Passengers can also find updates on Sea-Tac’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
To avoid spending time awkwardly maneuvering luggage through lines at airport restaurants, try Order SEA. With this mobile ordering service, passengers can order food for pickup from 20 airport restaurants such as McDonald’s, Hachi-Ko, Ballard Brew Hall, Rel’Lish Burger Lounge and Pei Wei.
Passengers can place orders at or on the FlySEA App, pay from a phone and choose a pickup time. Delivery is not available, but the airport is working on returning this feature.
If you’ve made it to the airport early and are looking for a lounge to relax in, Lounge Buddy provides guides and reviews of all Sea-Tac’s airport and airline lounges. The app, which is available on iOS and Android platforms, will show which lounges passengers have access to and the operating hours and amenities of every lounge. You can make a reservation on the app.
Staff reporter Vonnai Phair contributed to this report, which includes material from The Seattle Times archives.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.