Why is Sea-Tac Airport so busy this week?

Jun 23, 2023, 11:03 AM

Photo: Alaska Airlines planes at Sea-Tac Airport....

Alaska Airlines planes at Sea-Tac Airport. (File photo: Ted S. Warren, AP)

(File photo: Ted S. Warren, AP)

We traditionally think of the holidays as the busiest air travel days of the year. But, Sea-Tac Airport (SEA) officials are telling us that this week could be record-setting.

“When the schools are out, everybody’s like, let’s get out of town. So we see that with our numbers every year,” SEA spokesperson Perry Cooper told the Gee & Ursula Show. “I think Tacoma is out this week. Seattle’s out next week. When the major school districts are out, everybody starts to head out. And that’s the start of our busy season from now until the end of August.”

Sea-Tac Airport readies for busiest travel day ever

Cooper said that leisure travel is the main reason for the uptick.

“Right now we are seeing busy periods, like Memorial Day weekend. Those periods are now seeing levels at 2019 pre-pandemic levels,” Cooper explained. “We’re not expecting for the year to reach that full amount. But we’re expected for the summer here to be at or potentially above those numbers.”

He said if we don’t get the record high at Sea-Tac Friday, it’s going to come soon.

“Because it’s going to come sometime and probably be broken again and again throughout this summer.”

Cooper said there are a lot of things people should think about when flying to make their experience smooth.

“Get here early. And when we talk about early a lot of folks forget, it’s about getting into the terminal,” Cooper said. “So one of the biggest struggles that a lot of folks may have is how am I going to park? How am I going to get there, if you’re going to go through an off-site lot and try and have a shuttle or if you’re going to jump on light rail, which is a great option. Or if you’re going to try and park sometimes that’s going to take you longer than you expect.”

Cooper said you have to build all those factors into the equation when you are headed to the airport.

“We would rather have you get here early and get through all of your checking in with your bags and through the security checkpoints early and then hanging out for your flight versus being in one of those lines and go ‘Shoot. I’m now only half an hour away from my flight. What am I going to do?'”

What is a good way to save time at Sea-Tac Airport?

Cooper suggests the SEA Spot Saver program to assist you in flying.

“We actually developed it here. First one in the world to do that here at Seattle [and] now other airports around the country and around the world are using it. It’s called virtual queuing,” Cooper explained. “You can reserve up to five days in advance a 15-minute slot for general TSA screening, and you can just go show up in that 15-minute slot. If you’ve got TSA PreCheck or Clear or Global Entry, you’re already jumping ahead of the line for that. So if you got an opportunity to do those, do those. But if you’re only in general screening, jump on the reservation for SEA Spot Saver.”

Cooper said you should arrive at the terminal two hours early for a domestic flight and three hours for an international flight.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Why is Sea-Tac Airport so busy this week?