Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (IATA: SEA) is situated between Seattle and Tacoma in the Puget Sound region of Washington, the United States. It is the primary airport for the state & the Pacific Northwest region, and is a hub for flights to Alaska and the interior Northwest.

Understand

See also: Air travel in the United States
The main terminal at SeaTac

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, commonly referred to as SeaTac Airport, is located roughly midway between Seattle and Tacoma, about 15 miles (25 km) south of Seattle and 25 miles (40 km) north of Tacoma. It's the busiest airport in the Pacific Northwest region and one of the busiest in the nation, serving over 40 million passengers in 2015. The airport consists of a huge central terminal, two satellite terminals, cargo facilities, and three parallel runways running north-south.

Despite its name, Alaska Airlines' largest hub is actually at SeaTac, with frequent daily services to Anchorage, Alaska. Delta Air Lines also utilizes this airport as a hub, with many international flights to Asia and Europe.

Flights

All passengers pass through the Central Terminal, which contains four concourses. There are also two satellite terminals: the North, used by Alaska Airlines flights; and the South, used by Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and international flights with foreign flag carriers. International arrivals with Alaska Airlines (from Mexico) and United (from Japan) also arrive at the South Satellite. Both satellite terminals are accessible by train after passing through security.

  • Concourse A: Air Canada (including Air Canada Express), Delta (domestic services), Sun Country, United
  • Concourse B: Delta Connection, Frontier, Southwest, Virgin America
  • Concourse C: Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, SkyWest Airlines
  • Concourse D: American, JetBlue
  • North Satellite: Alaska Airlines
  • South Satellite: All Nippon, Asiana, British Airways, Condor, Delta (domestic & international), Emirates, EVA Air, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian, Icelandair, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Alaska Airlines arrivals from Mexico, United arrivals from Japan.

Arriving procedure

Arriving procedures for domestic passengers are fairly straightforward. Like any typical airport, you can remain in the transit area if you must change flights, or exit past security and pick up your luggage if Seattle is your final destination. If you arrive at the satellite gates, you must ride the train to the Central Terminal and claim your baggage at the Central Terminal. Keep in mind that Alaska Airlines passengers are guaranteed to have their luggage at baggage claim within 20 minutes, which doesn't leave much time to hang out in the terminal.

The procedure for arriving international flights is a little more complicated compared to other U.S. airports. All immigration, baggage claim, and customs declaration process are conducted at the lower level of the South Satellite. After this, you must put your luggage on another carousel which is sent to baggage claim in the Central Terminal, get on the train to the Central Terminal, and then pick up your luggage again at the Central Terminal baggage claim (usually carousel #1). All international arrivals must go through security screening to access the departure gates for a continuing flight. Allow about 15-30 minutes for this process alone, plus the time at the immigration, baggage claim and customs.

Departure procedure

All check-in process and TSA security checkpoints are conducted at the Central Terminal, regardless of where your flight departs at. You are free to mingle at any of the concourses after security, and the Central Terminal has numerous shops and a food court past security. Passengers whose flight departs from one of the satellite terminals can get there by train, and you can freely travel between the Central and satellite terminals.

Popular flights

Alaskan Airlines aircraft in a special "Wild Alaskan Salmon" paint scheme at SeaTac

Flights to and from Anchorage in Alaska are very popular as Seattle in closer than any other city in the lower 48, but the term "close" still means a 3-hour flight! Alaska Airlines is the major operator of that route and has multiple daily flights. But the most crowded flights are to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, and Phoenix, all still in the Western United States. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian both fly daily between Seattle and the islands of Hawaii, especially Honolulu. Flights to other parts of the U.S. are becoming increasingly frequent, but are still not as frequent as those to the big cities of California.

SeaTac is the primary hub for flights to Alaska and the Northwestern contiguous United States, with flights to Portland, Boise, Spokane, and small cities in Montana, all operated by Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary, Horizon Air. It is also a small hub for flights to the West Coast. Alaska maintains the biggest presence in the airport for domestic flights, while Delta is the largest provider of international flights out of Seattle, flying to and from Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei in Asia, as well as Amsterdam, Paris, London in Europe.

Ground transportation

Nearly all transportation means out of the airport, unless by car, are available at the Airport Parking Garage. It takes roughly 30 minutes to drive to Seattle and nearly 1 hour to Tacoma, not taking into account the bumper-to-bumper traffic during the morning commute on Interstate 5 bound for Seattle or the evening commute bound for Tacoma.

SeaTac terminal map

By train

The Central Link light rail line, operated by SoundTransit, is the easiest and cheapest way to get to Downtown Seattle from the airport. The platforms can be accessed from a bridge on the 4th floor of the garage, just a bridge away from the Central Terminal at the departure level.

The train takes about 40 minutes to get to Downtown Seattle, runs every 10-15 minutes, and costs $3.00 one-way to Downtown. The train also stops in various suburbs, Sodo, and the International District before reaching Downtown, and continues past Downtown to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington.

If you wish to continue to Tacoma or Everett, you can catch this train and get off at International District Station, head upstairs to ground level and walk towards King Street Station (the brick building across the street (4th Ave)), for Sounder Commuter Rail, but this service is mostly available at the evening commute hour (3 to 7PM) only. At other times of the day and on weekends they only operate express buses to Everett & Tacoma on:

By shuttle bus

Most of these shuttle services pick up passengers from the bus terminal at the southern end of the main terminal building outside door 00, outside Baggage Carousel 1. However, some shuttles (namely the ShuttleExpress, Speedi Shuttle, Downtown Airporter, hotel shuttles and off-site parking shuttles) pick up from the third floor of the parking garage, across from the central terminal.

There are also shuttles by different companies to the San Juan Islands and Vashon Island.

By bus

SoundTransit is useful for long distance bus services in the Seattle Metropolitan Area, but will not take you to downtown Seattle.

Both routes stop at Door 2 of the Central Terminal, just outside Baggage Carousel 1.

King County Metro is more useful if your final destination is within the vicinity (up to 10 miles) from the airport. Metro's airport bus stop is on WA 99, downstairs from the Link Light Rail station.

You can catch a bus from Downtown Seattle to Albany, Olympia, Bellingham, Portland, Vancouver BC, Spokane or to other points in Central and Eastern Washington. Greyhound's depot is easily accessible from the Stadium light rail station, practically next to the station. BoltBus offers 2 or 3-hourly bus services to these cities in the above from the Chinatown/International District station in downtown (stop is along 5th Ave next to the International District Light Rail Station entrance/exit).

There is a hotel bus as well, although it is not particularly cheap and will take a huge amount of time to stop around every single hotel in the center.

By town car, limo, or SUV

All limos pick up passengers at the third floor of the parking garage.

By taxi

All taxis can be hailed at the third floor of the parking garage. Only one company has the honor to park its taxis here.

By car-sharing

The car-sharing services Uber and Lyft can take you to the airport direct from your home. Simply pinpoint your address, order from the app, and the car will be right in front of you in no time; they do not take prior reservations and payment must be made by card! Note that while the cheap uberX cannot be hailed from SeaTac town, you can take the light rail to another station and get one from there, which can still end up much cheaper than taxi!

By rental cars

On a weekend, you might want to shop the internet for rental cars, since they can be less than $12/day (plus roughly 18% tax; also consider hotel parking fees, if any). Counters are at the both far ends of the Central Terminal at Arrival Level. Beware of the fact that taking a rental from the airport will incur an 11% "airport tax" surcharge. If you are able to rent a car from a downtown location you will not have to pay this and will save a considerable amount of money.

The rental car facility is located far from the airport proper; a free shuttle service operates 24 hours a day between the central terminal and the rental car facility. Stops for this shuttle are located at the far ends of the central terminal, outside Baggage Carousels 1 and 16. At the car rental facility, you can then look for counters from companies and get quotes. The car rental facility is also the same place to return your car, directly accessible from State Route 518 right after the Interstate 5 exit.

By car

Parking is within one single building that can accommodate 13,000 cars, the largest of its kind under one roof in the world. All spots are eligible for both short term & long term parking. Note that level 4 has the easiest access to the terminal, as all the skybridges are on that level, but levy different fares compared to floors 2-3 & 5-8! The level 4 parking rates are $4 per hour, $35 daily. Other floors are $3 per hour, $28 daily, $130 for 7 days. If you will frequently fly out of SeaTac, there is a monthly fee for $350 with unlimited hours of parking. Discounts may apply for all charges if you use a parking card.

Access towards the airport

The airport is easily accessible from both Interstate 5 and 405 for direct access to Seattle and Tacoma, but it is not directly beside the Interstate! You need to get off the interstate at Exit 154 to State Route 518. If you are coming from Interstate 405, just go straight ahead. From that on, the direction to the airport is clearly marked.

Alternatively, if the Interstate is crowded, as has been always the case during the rush hour, from Seattle, you can take the Alaskan Way Viaduct (State Route 99), straight towards State Route 509, then exit to SW 148th Street. Turn left and go straight towards State Route 518, exit when the direction says "Airport". From Tacoma, take Puyallup Ave in front of the Amtrak train station, then straight towards State Route 99. Just go straight and follow the route towards the airport.

Get around

You can walk between concourses if you are within the Central Terminal. If you are going to the North Satellite or South, you must take the train, but you can still go back & forth. The so-called Satellite Transit System has 3 lines: a loop line between Concourse A, B, and South Satellite; another loop line between Concourses C, D, and North Satellite; and from Concourse A to Concourse D.

Wait

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of only six airports in the nation that presents live music every day at some point in the terminal! Seattle's famous music scene attracts local Northwest artists to perform frequently at the busiest hour of flights for entertainment (mostly 10AM to 1PM). Basically it's all music within the airport! Even the airport announcements are conducted by local famous artists, such as Quincy Jones, Macklemore & Sir Mix-A-Lot.

There are over 100 permanent and rolling art masterpieces created by 85 local artists throughout the airport, most at the ticketing centers and then scattered throughout the whole area. Some of them may be unnoticeable enough to be seen though, such as at the supporting columns, on walls towards the restroom, on the ceiling, even at the supporting wall of the runway! Most of the main attractions though, is along the walk from the Center Terminal towards Concourse A.

For the kids, there is a dedicated playing area for them between the Central terminal and Concourse A. There is also a big and satisfactory mother's room inside.

Lounges

Eat and Drink

SeaTac's food court

Through the eat, shop & more theme, the airport tries to enhance the dining & shopping experience. Prices are either similar or slightly more expensive than off-airport establishments, at least compared to Seattle's standard. By & large, expect your tummy to be only nearly entirely filled if you eat at the standing establishments, even less at fast food stands. It is much better off to try the local favorites, as such flavors are hard to imitate at other airports around the nation!

The world famous coffee chain originating from Seattle, Starbucks, has a coffee shop at all areas but Concourse D & South Satellite. An alternative to that is the other chain owned by Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee on other areas where Starbucks is out of sight.

Taste a sample of the local delight without stepping out from the airport:

As well as other restaurants:

Buy

For shopping options, more varieties can be found at the Central Terminal or Concourse C.

Connect

There is a reliable Wi-Fi service throughout the airport and the service is free for all devices! It can also be used as a guide for the gate your flight departs at and guide to your destination city, as well as nearby concessions depending on where you are. Alternatively, you can also rent an Internet-enabled phones for 35 cents a minute (minimum $5) at spots around the airport.

Device charger outlets can be found under the seat on all concourses, but they are spotty. If you are lucky enough to depart from gate B4, there are 25 outlets under the seats. If you find none, there are dedicated charging booths at some point within the airport except the satellite terminals.

If you are using the Digiboo internet service, you can pay to download a movie or TV show at its booths scattered throughout the airport. Just swipe your credit card, then you can download with a USB or WiFi.

Cope

A meditation room and chapel can be found within the ticketing area at the Mezzanine Level.

Currency Exchange (Travelex) have numerous locations at the ticketing Level (one on the south esplanade and one on the north) and Baggage Claim, on Concourse A and in the South Satellite.

There is only one shop for baggage storage, provided by Ken's, but its facility is complete. It is also one of the only two airports in the US that offers frozen storage! You can also rent car seat, stroller, and wheelchair here; and buy locks, cases, pet kennels, and rifle cases. FedEx, UPS, and copying/fax services; vehicle battery jumper service; and notary services are available on request.

Sleep

By and large, the airport is safe enough to sleep in, but you may want to avoid that for comfort reasons. While there is no hotel within the airport property, there are plenty of hotels and motels lined up along International Blvd (Hwy 99) with some located across the street and next to the airport grounds along the same side of the street, within walking distance of the Link Light Rail station. Most of these hotels are cheap by Seattle standards. Therefore, to save money, many visitors to Seattle had opted to stay in this area and "commute" by car, bus or train (Link Light Rail) into Seattle to do their sightseeing, eating, bar hopping, shopping, etc. during the day and come back here to sleep at night:

Nearby

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.