The Labor Day holiday brings the latest rush to the summer travel season at SEA Airport
The last days of summer have arrived and you won’t be alone if you fly through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) for the Labor Day holiday. About 10% more travelers will be at the gates during the holidays compared to last year. That’s still 10% lower than pre-pandemic levels, but travelers won’t notice the difference – it’ll be busy! With this in mind, SEA Airport encourages travelers to plan ahead, arrive early, be prepared for traffic jams and find ways to make your trip easier with advanced planning or Be a hero at the airport!
Parking will continue to be a challenge as more and more travelers use their own vehicle, although our new automated parking guidance system now has four of eight floors completed! Alternate means of getting to SEA are encouraged, such as carpooling, the Link Light Rail, and public transportation. Please allow extra time to avoid tight hugs to get to your flight. Better sooner than later!
Passenger numbers during the Labor Day holiday are expected to be 10% higher than in 2021, about 90% of 2019 pre-pandemic levels. August volumes edged out July with a projection of about 4 .7 million passengers for the month (compared to nearly 4.6 million for July). Through July, overall passenger traffic for 2022 reached 25.4 million, down 13.8% from 2019 levels (29.5 million), but up 37% from 2021 ( 18.5 million).
Some additional interesting facts in the numbers:
- International travel is rebounding at SEA with more services available now than before the pandemic. This year, new airlines (Turkish Airlines, Finnair and Tahiti Nui in October) and new destinations (Edmonton/Alaska Airlines, Montreal/Air Canada) have been added, bringing a total of 45 international services to 28 destinations by 25 companies air this fall.
- European travel returned to 100% of 2019 levels in July.
- Mexico/Central America services increased 263% in July compared to 2019.
- Not all Chinese services have yet resumed due to pandemic restrictions.
The busiest days are expected to be Friday September 2, with an expected 155,000 passengers traveling through the airport (departure, arrival and connection). The next busiest will be Thursday, September 1, projecting 149,000 total passengers through the airport, followed by Monday, September 5 with 146,000 travelers expected through the airport. Pre-pandemic passenger numbers reached 185,000 per day during Labor Day weekend in 2019. Overall, the busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays, TSA security checkpoints being busiest at SEA from 5-10am. from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
SEA’s latest passenger forecast for 2022 will be around 10% below 2019 levels, with a 3% decline in 2023 and a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. For more information, see our Statistics page.
What’s the best advice for travellers?
- Arrive early! Depending on your needs, you may need more time. Make sure you are at the airport at least two hours before boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight
- Masks are not required at the airport, but strongly recommended by the CDC to be worn during travel. Check your destination COVID-19 requirements for the entrance. If required, XpresCheck offers baggage claim testing.
- SEA airport car park continues to be busy. Consider alternative modes of transport to get to the airport or arrive 45 minutes early to find a parking space.
- Worried about checkpoints? Use SEA Spot Saver to reserve your place in the TSA queue and avoid crowded security lines at the airport
- Download (or update!) the flySEA app for live checkpoint wait times. As a bonus, it’s also a one-stop resource for traveler alerts, parking spot tracking, maps, and more information.
- Prepare in advance with your airline! Be sure to check their baggage policies, check in, and download all of their apps for efficient travel. See our top luggage tips!
- Use the SEA commandour mobile ordering service, including food delivery from the entire airport to the door or pickup so you can grab and go to your door.
- Get ahead of the game! Download your airline’s app to check in for your flight, download your boarding pass and pay for your baggage.
- Explore the latest restaurants and retail in your lobby! Including two new little shops near Gate A1 that have recently opened, Glass Eye Studio and Africa’s Best!
Airport parking will be a challenge
Why is the parking lot so crowded? Demand is up and supply is down. More customers drive private vehicles than choose carpooling or public transit. Pandemic-related closures have reduced the number of parking spaces in the area outside the airport, while a garage improvement project and a recent fire have resulted in temporary reductions at the SEA garage. The shortage of shuttle drivers also continues to impact the availability of offsite parking options for airport employees.
Safety first; Avoid parking on the shoulder
Vehicles are encouraged to use the new reconfigured mobile phone parking lot and avoid unsafe parking along the shoulder of airport walkways. Violators will be cited as Port of Seattle Police are working with the Washington State Patrol to emphasize patrolling during the holidays.
Pro tip: Light it up to speed it up! If one airport route is crowded, use the other that is open to pick up and drop off passengers!
Other Ways to Get to SEA Airport
- Take the hassle out of driving with Sound Transit’s light rail transit. Public transport is by far the best option if you want to avoid traffic jams
- Take a ride with app-based taxis or rideshares like Uber and Lyft, or other ground transportation
- Rent your own ride. All car rental companies operate from an off-site rental car center where dedicated shuttles transport passengers free of charge 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Pedal power! Yes, you can even cycle to the airport with bike racks and two ways to get to the airport by bike.
- If you still plan to park, allow 45 to 60 minutes to find a space. Off-site car parks should also be very busy or already full
- If you are picking up or dropping off relatives:
Give me the basics of the traveler
- The CDC advice for travelers changes based on your COVID-19 vaccination status. Check with your airline for the state or country where you plan to travel.
- Be prepared for security checks. SEA and TSA want to help you get through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronic devices larger than a cell phone from carry-on baggage. Also, remove food and liquids from your carry-on baggage and be prepared to present your boarding pass for examination. You can also view the latest identification and documentation requirements.
- Need more travel tips? Our Customer Care team has the best advice for navigating SEA like a great traveler.
- SEA continues to add new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Check out our SEA social story developed for travelers with sensory sensitivities such as autism, as well as great general tips for kids. Learn more about accessibility at SEA. The interactive map on the flySEA app offers accessible routes.
- Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are road construction projects which could impede your access to the airport.
Perry Cooper | Port of Seattle Senior Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 | [email protected]