How To Navigate Seattle Tacoma International Airport Amidst The SEA Gateway Project
A guide how to navigate SEA Airport thru SEA Gateway Project renovations and enjoy one's summer 2023 flights on Alaska Airlines.
In a June 8 media event, the Port of Seattle and Alaska Airlines shared an update on the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA Airport) build-out and preparedness for summer congestion at the airport. As the airport is going through historic airport construction to eliminate congestion, one may want to take advantage of the advice Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is offering travelers to optimize their passenger experience.
SEA Airport and Alaska Airlines are currently constructing a new entrance to speed up travel and add office space from unused areas of SEA Airport. Alaska Airlines will add more bag tag stations and SEA Airport will add more Transportation Security Administration (TSA) capacity to speed up travel times from the airport entrance to airside and airport gates. There will also be a renovation of baggage claim below to add capacity and make getting your checked bags faster.
As SEA Airport Managing Director Lance Lyttle shared at the event,
"We have to find space wherever. We are one of the most constrained airports in the entire USA."
This is because there is no land for SEA Airport to expand currently, so any renovation to add capacity is worth doing. As per the above renderings, the airport entrance will be more efficient and welcoming.
Plus, one product of the renovation will be more Alaska Airlines bag tag stations than pictured above. Shane Jones, Vice President of Real Estate and Business Development for Alaska Airlines, shared with Simple Flying with new bag tag stations behind him;
"The idea is to reduce the amount of time you have to be in the lobby. But we're adding a significant amount of new bag tag stations as well as automated bag drops as part of this project."
The goal is to reduce time in the airport lobby to five minutes or less. Furthermore, Alaska Airlines employees will be aided with tablets to help passengers struggling to use the technology or having questions about the airport experience.
Finally, the renovation is creating more office and breakroom space from the construction for Alaska Airlines employees and TSA agents. Again, wanting to make SEA Airport more welcoming.
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The construction will occur in two phases – phase one will be done by the end of 2024 and phase two will be completed by 2026, hopefully, before the FIFA World Cup comes to Seattle.
One of the reasons for the media event was for SEA Airport and Alaska Airlines to ask the gathered media to share with the public tips to have a stress-free journey to their flight despite the construction. When asked by Simple Flying, Lyttle stressed the airport is becoming one of the nation's most "constrained" and that,
We encourage everyone to take light rail to get to the airport.
Yes, Sound Transit does have a SeaTac/Airport light rail station a short walk from SEA Airport, as pictured above. According to Sound Transit, the station has about 85% ridership recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2023. SeaTac/Airport light rail station also has about 4,400 daily boardings in 2023. It's also worth noting that just to the south is Angle Lake Station which services a parking lot with 1,160 spaces plus electric charging stations. Angle Lake Station has surpassed 2019 boardings already.
However, if one must drive to SEA Airport, Lyttle did recommend that drivers remember that both arrival and departure lanes take one to the same place with only a difference of one floor and one escalator.
Lyttle also wanted passengers to use SEA Spot Saver, which is linked under "Sources" below. SEA Spot Saver allows general passengers to reserve their spot in the security line, which has been found to reduce wait times to 15 minutes. SEA Spot Saver is free and according to the airport's website, appointments are available from 3 hours to 1 hour before flight departure. One can book an appointment up to five days before one's flight.
One can also put the flySEA app on their smartphone to check TSA checkpoint times; have a parking spot reminder; review airport maps for not just boarding but also amenities and dining; find one's flight, and also find ground transportation options. If that's not enough reason to download the flySEA app, one can now reserve food to pick up from an airside restaurant from the app.
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Additionally, SEA Airport has installed a Park Assist® automated parking guidance system (APGS) to help drivers find a parking spot among the 12,000 stalls. If a driver can look up at the ceiling upon pulling in, the driver will see red lights for filled parking slots and green for empty spaces.
The sensors that aid this system also aid in parking policy enforcement, vehicle location, and general security. The system also feeds electronic reader boards outside the garages to indicate parking spots. One can learn more from the Port of Seattle YouTube below:
According to a May 25 statement, Alaska Airlines is back at pre-pandemic flying with 1,200 daily flights to more than 120 cities – including 30% more service to Latin America and connections to Yellowstone National Park from five cities.
The airline is also staffing up with 6% more staff than in 2019. Furthermore, twice as many pilots each month are graduating from airline training compared to last spring when Alaska Airlines was constrained. The successful negotiation and ratification of a new pilot's contract also helps.
Nonetheless, Alaska Airlines, in the same May 25 statement, urged passengers to check in and get a boarding pass before arriving at the airport. One can get an electric boarding pass from the airline's app or print the pass to take to the airport.
Passengers for international flights are encouraged to check-in three hours early, while domestic flights are encouraged to check-in two hours early. With Alaska Airlines installing more bag tag stations at every airport with an Alaska Airlines ticketing counter, you can tag and pay for your bags quickly if you didn't pay for your bags from the Alaska Airlines app or website.
Also, on the Alaska Airlines app and website is the option to pre-order up to 20 hours ahead of time for one's in-flight meal. As well as the option to change seats if need be.
Finally, Alaska Airlines offers first class upgrades for only 15,000 miles and sometimes within 24 hours of departure through online check-in. There is also the recently reviewed option of airline lounge access.
Multiple Alaska Airlines employees also shared with Simple Flying the need to read all e-mails Alaska Airlines sends. The e-mails also come with options to earn additional frequent flyer miles by booking a hotel and rental car ahead of time.
Ultimately, as Alaska Airlines' Jones shared with Simple Flying;
We're just incredibly excited about what we're doing to change the experience and making it more seamless and lower stress for our customers. … My personal goal on this journey is: Get rid of lines. We don't need them.
What do you like or dislike about what SEA Airport is doing? Please share with civility in the comments.
Sources: SEA Spot Saver, Sound Transit
Journalist - When not reading and writing about aviation, Joe is photographing it. Joe Loves educating the public about aviation, and generating enthusiasm around flying while supporting all those who work in aviation. Based in Skagit County, United StatesSIMPLEFLYING VIDEO OF THE DAY SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT What do you like or dislike about what SEA Airport is doing? Please share with civility in the comments. IATA/ICAO Code: Airline Type: Hub(s): Year Founded: Alliance: CEO: Country: IATA/ICAO Code: Country: CEO: Passenger Count : Runways :