Seattle-Tacoma International Airport unveiled eight new gates and a 15,800-square-foot lounge for Alaska Airlines flyers on Thursday.
The expansion marks the end of the first phase of the North Satellite Modernization project, a two-year effort by the Port of Seattle to upgrade and expand that part of the fast-growing airport, which saw almost 50 million travelers last year.
The new gates for Alaska Airlines will have slimmer chairs in the waiting areas, fitted with charging stations, and the space will include a nursing room with alcoves to accommodate multiple users.
“We think we should have a facility that reflects the look and feel of this region, and this is one of those facilities,” said Lance Lyttle, Sea-Tac Airport’s managing director.
The entire project is expected to cost the Port $658 million, funded through fees charged to the airlines and passengers, instead of the Port’s tax dollars.
The North Satellite terminal gained a new coffee shop, restaurants and retail space earlier this year.
The new lounge and office spaces for Alaska Airlines cost the company $41 million. In 2018, Alaska Airlines passengers made up nearly 50% of travelers through Sea-Tac.
Alaska Airlines executives touted the lounge’s Starbucks-trained baristas, the views of the Olympic and Cascade mountains from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and a craft beer by Fremont Brewing that will be served exclusively to lounge members.
“This is an overall product investment in Alaska Airlines,” said Ryan Butz, managing director of customer loyalty at Alaska. “If our lounges make customers want to fly more with Alaska because they have access to a lounge like this, then that’s a win for us.”
Membership to the lounge costs between $295 to $450 dollars for new members, or a $50 day pass. Craig Zajac, who works for a technology company, said he flies 10 to 15 times a year and “was tired of sitting in these seats” elsewhere in the airport.
As a lounge member, “you get comfy chairs,” Zajac said, indicating the navy blue and dark wood seats in the new space. And as an aside: “The Alaska lounge has by far the best beer selection of any lounge I’ve been in.”
Locked in a fierce battle with Delta Air Lines for customers in its West Coast strongholds, Alaska Airlines has been investing more in its premium services, including more than $50 million in its lounges across the country. The opening of the Seattle lounge follows a new one at JFK Airport and upgraded lounges in Portland, Anchorage and Los Angeles. A new one in San Francisco Airport is also expected to come to fruition in 2020 as the company’s 8th lounge.
“We all know travel is stressful,” said Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airline’s chief commercial officer. “That’s why these facilities are so important. It’s the little things … that matter, and take the stress out of your day.”
The airline company acquired Virgin America three years ago and invested $200 million in its products, including updated cabins with tablet holders, power outlets and a newer menu. Their focus is “how do we make our product and our experience more generous than what customers might expect or what competitors might offer?” Butz, of Alaska Airlines, said.
The rest of the North Satellite Modernization project is scheduled to be finished in mid-2021, with double the dining and retail spaces, and 20 gates total.