You may not have stepped foot in an airport since 2020, but flying is back, and the busiest travel days of the year are almost here. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) reports that after a COVID-induced lull, the airport is back to busy.
Whether you’re heading out for the holidays or expecting guests, a little planning makes travel less stressful and more predictable. You’ll find the crowds aren’t the only new development at SEA: A number of changes over the past year make navigating the airport an easier, more accessible experience.
The newly expanded light rail stations means folks coming from the north end have a new option for getting to the airport, and a new and improved cellphone lot makes picking up a passenger a smoother experience. Rideshare services and carpooling are also options to consider. Though you might be used to getting to the airport by car, these choices ease congestion and demand for the airport’s limited parking. (And whatever you do, don’t park on the airport drives: It’s dangerous and illegal.)
In addition to new transportation options, here are three other innovations that can bring calm, control and even novelty to your time in transit.
Save your spot for a less stressful security experience
If you don’t have TSA PreCheck or CLEAR, a long line at security is a major stressor. Enter SEA’s Spot Saver program. General screening passengers can use the free service to set an appointment to go through security during the airport’s busiest times, 5 a.m. — 1 p.m. You’ll be given a QR code, and when you show up at one of three dedicated security checkpoints at your prearranged time, you’ll be able to enter a dedicated SEA Spot Saver lane.
With SEA Spot Saver, staff proactively manages the queue volume into a steady stream of passengers spread out over time rather than long lines during peak times. That’s good news for your peace of mind.
Skip the wait with gate meal delivery (from a robot)
If you’re wrangling luggage or family members but need a snack or a meal before your flight, SEA has a new food delivery system that brings concessions directly to you. Order SEA is integrated into the flySEA app and can also be accessed at ordersea.org. Using the app, passengers can choose from a list of participating concessionaires, place and pay for an order and select either pickup or delivery to your gate.
And your food may come with a surprising helper: A small human-assisted robot accompanies the SEA staff member making deliveries.
Unplug, recenter and safely signal hidden disabilities
Beyond security, you’ll find rooms dedicated to prayer, meditation, and helping passengers find a moment of calm to decompress from the sensory overload. Introduced in 2021, SEA’s sensory room is designed for neurodiverse passengers. It’s a quiet, dark space that allows for self-soothing. Next door, the interfaith prayer and meditation room welcomes passengers of all religious backgrounds to engage in devotionals and mindfulness before boarding their flights.
The sensory room isn’t SEA’s only accommodation for neurodiverse passengers. Travelers with hidden disabilities who may need extra assistance can also participate in the airport’s sunflower lanyard program. First begun in the United Kingdom, the program allows passengers to signal a need for specialized assistance by wearing a green-and-yellow lanyard. It’s a useful option for passengers managing hearing loss, autism, PTSD and other conditions. Airport workers are trained to look for the sunflower lanyard to offer additional customer care and help create a smoother experience. Travelers with additional screening needs can contact TSA Cares Assistance up to 72 hours in advance to help plan and get accommodations for travel.
It’s been a long year and the holidays bring both joy and stress. SEA Airport’s gift to you is new ways to make travel easier than ever. Explore this travel guide for tips to make your trip safe and predictable.