Sullivan: So you’re going to the airport. Now what?

Dec 20, 2022, 5:00 AM | Updated: 6:30 am
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

We have talked about this before, but we can never remind you enough about our tips to survive the airport during Christmas week.

Number one is a no-brainer. Just get to the airport early. It is always better to be sitting at a café inside the terminal waiting for your plane than it is being nervous waiting in the TSA line while your plane is already boarding.

If you can, find someone to get you there. Having someone to drop you off or pick you up is a win for everyone.

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SEA Airport’s Perry Cooper called those people heroes. “If you can be that person that drops them off at the airport so they don’t have to use their car, you’ll be a hero to yourself, as well as everybody else that ends up using the airport,” he said.

And for that wonderful person, my advice is simple. Think opposite. This trick is so easy but is so under-utilized. Use the terminal approach that is opposite the heaviest traffic. Just because you are dropping someone off doesn’t mean you need to use the departures deck. There is no law requiring that. Go to the arrivals approach. Same thing for picking someone up. Go up top to departures.

If you do plan to park at the airport, just remember there are not as many spaces as there used to be. 800-1,000 spots at lots around the airport closed during the pandemic and have not re-opened.

If you’re using the garage, plan a lot of extra time searching for a spot. Cooper said you should head to the south end of the garage before heading up.

“The south end of the garage is what doesn’t fill up the fastest because you’ve got more flights on the north end,” he said. “Check to the south end first. That’s probably a great bet, and then as you go up a little bit higher into those floors like 6, 7, and 8, those tend to be the last ones filled up as well.”

And I cannot recommend Spot Saver enough. I have flown out of SEA six times in the last two months, and the Spot Saver program has saved me minutes every single time.  Even this last weekend, I walked right up to the ID check without a wait. It’s like a Fast Pass at Disney.

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Cooper said you can reserve your spot at the front of the TSA line up to 72 hours in advance.  “You will get a QR code that shows you a checkpoint and a 15-minute space within that checkpoint that you can just show up to the front of the line and get in ahead of all those general screening folks,” Cooper said.

All you need to do is give them some information, including your flight info, and you’re on your way. This does not work if you already have pre-check, but those lines are usually okay anyway.

Final tip: Try to relax and see tip number one, which is to get there early.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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Sullivan: So you’re going to the airport. Now what?