Tips For Braving The Holiday Crowds At Sea-Tac Airport

Dec 22, 2017

Believe it or not, the holidays are not the busiest time of year at Sea-Tac Airport. That distinction belongs to the summer. (Who wouldn’t want to be here in the summer?)

But holiday travel volumes are nothing to sneeze at if you’re an airport manager. Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 2, Sea-Tac Airport officials expect 2.5 million passengers to move through the facility.

So what’s a busy traveler to do?

Here’s some advice we compiled from airport spokesman Mark Snider. And here’s the airport’s list, if you want to just go right to the source.

If you don’t need to drive, don’t. Light rail, taxis, ride-hailing companies and airport shuttles are some good options. Leave the car at home and let someone else steer you through the crowd.

If you must drive, try a new route. For people coming from the north, that means blowing past the airport’s marked I-5 exit to Highway 518. Instead, head to Exit 152, which is 188th Street. That leads you to International Boulevard, and you can access the terminals and garages from the south.

Embrace opposites. If you’re picking someone up, and the arrivals drive is congested, try the departures drive. And vice versa, of course. Both roads go to the same building, and your passenger is just an escalator or elevator ride away from where they need to be.

Think about your food. If you’re not planning to eat it on the plane, pack it in your checked bags. Food can often attract the attention of TSA agents. You’re allowed to bring most of it on board, but a separate bag search can slow you down.

Give yourself lots of time. You want to show up two hours ahead of a domestic flight, and three hours before an international departure. Better to read at the gate than run through the airport.

Time your pick-ups. If you’re greeting a passenger, either park in the garage, or have them text you when they’re outside. If you show up when they’re scheduled to land, you’ll be waiting in the arrivals drive while the plane taxis in, the passenger gets off the plane, retrieves their bags and finds the exit. Wait that long, and the first face you’ll see will be a traffic officer urging you to move along, rather than the person you’re there to see.

Good luck, brave traveler, and safe journeys.