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Northwest Traveler

Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

December 12, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Flying for the holidays? Don’t miss these survival tips for Sea-Tac Airport

An entertainier dressed as a Christmas tree brings a guffaw to a holiday traveler at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (photo by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times, 2010)

An entertainer dressed as a Christmas tree brings a guffaw to a holiday traveler at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (photo by Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times, 2010)

Here’s a roundup from the Port of Seattle of useful information and tips to help travelers navigate Seattle-Tacoma International Airport during the holiday rush:


Listed in order of passenger volume, the projected busiest days will be:

  • Friday, Dec. 19 (110,400 passengers going through the airport)
  • Monday, Dec. 22 (108,100, tie with Tuesday)
  • Tuesday, Dec. 23 (108,100, tie with Monday)
  • Sunday, Dec. 21 (106,950)
  • Friday, Dec.26 (103,500)


Lowest passenger volumes are expected on:

  • Thursday, Dec. 25 (86,000)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 31 (82,800)
  • Thursday, Jan. 1 (78,000)


  • Pick up on the “Departures” drive, drop-off on the “Arrivals” drive. If traffic is congested, look for the opposite airport drive for relief. Try meeting your arriving guests one level up from baggage claim at the less-crowded “Departures” drive. Arriving passengers with only carry-ons can go straight out from the ticketing level. For drop-offs, reverse it. Go to the “Arrivals” drive; departing travelers then need go up only one level to ticketing. Remember, the busiest times are mornings for departures and evenings for arrivals.
  • Pick-up/drop-off further down the drive. The most congestion on the drives is right at the beginning, or the north end. Try driving further south down the drives to meet or drop-off your passengers.
  • Wait until your arriving passenger reaches the drive.  You may get a call from a passenger when they land, but it could be 20-30 minutes until they deplane, collect luggage and get to the drive. Time your arrival to reduce congestion and save time waiting in the car.
  • Park in the airport garage for $3 or $4 an hour. Park in the airport parking garage on the 4th floor of Terminal Direct; it’s the quickest and most convenient option for meeting arriving passengers. It’s a short walk from the main terminal to the parking garage via any connecting skybridge.
  • Try the cell phone waiting lot. Free WiFi is available and drivers can wait in their cars for free up to 20 minutes. Take advantage of the posted QR code to scan for flight-arrival information. No parking or waiting is allowed on airport roadway shoulders.


TSA inspectors may need to open wrapped gifts to take a closer look, so consider using the airport’s gift-wrapping station, located beyond the security checkpoints. From 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., volunteers from USO Northwest will be in the central terminal to serve your gift-wrapping needs. Donations to USO Northwest are welcome.


Save time by parking in the airport garage. From Dec. 17 through Jan. 4, rates are reduced to $95/week (up to seven days) in the General Parking area of the airport garage with a holiday parking coupon (the coupon is for $99 now, but the lower rate will kick in on the 17th). Minimum stay of four days is required. Usual rate is $130/week.


Three new information kiosks are open to help travelers with questions and find their way at the airport. Each kiosk is staffed with Pathfinders, dressed in teal blazers/vests, and volunteers , in blue, with blue clipboards. Find them at the ticketing level by Door 21 or across from Security Checkpoint 3, after security in the food court, and in the waiting area to catch a train to the south satellite.


Enjoy live holiday performance art, parades, carols, puppetry, music, souvenir giveaways and more throughout the terminal. The annual Holiday Entertainment Program, sponsored by Sea-Tac merchants, brings in performers Dec. 16–24 during peak passenger-traffic hours of 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Click here for the schedule of appearances.



Comments | More in airports, Sea-Tac Airport | Topics: airport tips, holiday travel, Sea-Tac holiday tips


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