Record breaking holiday travel predicted, just not in Seattle

Dec 15, 2023, 12:15 PM | Updated: 1:18 pm

holiday travel Sea-tac...

Sea-Tac International Airport (Wacamerabuff/Flickr)


Prepare for long lines at Sea-Tac Airport (SEA) if you plan to travel next week for the Christmas holiday.

AAA expects 7.5 million travelers starting next week, which is up from 2019 when there were 7.3 million. One reason travel is expected to be heavy? Ticket prices are cheaper than they have been in previous years, according to CNN.

More on WA news: WSDOT claims $500M needed to fix state’s ‘declining’ rest stops

But don’t expect Sea-Tac Airport to see those record-breaking numbers.

Port of Seattle spokesperson Perry Cooper said travel doesn’t heat up around here until summer.

“But for the holiday period itself, we’re probably going to be about 17% busier than we were last year; that’s taking into account the fact that we had some real nasty delay times last year,” Cooper said.

You may remember December 23, 2022, when Seattle had an ice storm, and the airport closed the runway for several hours.

“It was the first time we’d ever seen that in 30 years. So, hopefully, we’re not going to see that again,” Cooper said. “But for the holiday period, we’re expected to be a little bit over that from last year, but still probably a touch under what we had for record levels in 2019.”

And if Seattle does experience inclement weather for the holidays, Cooper assured travelers that SEA is ready.

More on travel: New Amtrak options for travel between Seattle and Portland added

“Actually, this year, we picked up some new equipment,” Cooper said. “We’ve got eight new combination snow blowers and plows that we’re going to be using on the airfield. So that’s going to help us actually update some of the equipment we had from last year.

“We’re really excited about that. We’ve actually put together a blog and a little video to highlight what we’ve done here at SEA. It’s a huge kudos to our teams out there on the airfield,” Cooper continued. “These folks will get out and drive those snowplows up to 12 hours in a row in between restroom breaks. But they’re working really hard when you’ve got a type of snow like [last year’s snowstorm].”

If you plan to fly out travel next week over the 10-day holiday, here are some recommendations and helpful tips:

  1. Arrive two hours early before boarding for domestic flights.
  2. Arrive three hours early before boarding for international flights
  3. Print your boarding pass before heading to the airport
  4. Reserve your spot in line through security at SEA Spot Saver
  5. If you can, take transit
  6. When it comes to drop-offs and pick-ups, think the opposite

Follow Micki Gamez on Twitter or email her here.

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