Seattle-Tacoma Airport 101: The ultimate guide to SEA
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Located between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is the 10th-busiest airport in the U.S., according to Airports Council International-North America. Airport data shows that it served more than 36 million passengers in 2021.
As of 2022, 31 airlines operate at SEA, serving 91 domestic and 28 international destinations nonstop. Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines are the top carriers for both domestic and international passengers. Other carriers at the airport include Air Canada, Air France, Air Tahiti Nui, American Airlines, ANA, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Icelandair, JetBlue Airways, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines (starting at the end of May), United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
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SEA is made up of a main terminal and concourses N and S, which are all connected by the SEA Underground train system. From there, travelers have access to buses, a light rail system, ride-hailing services, taxis, shuttle vans and chauffeur services.
The modernization of Concourse N was completed in November 2021 and includes new amenities, more dining and retail options, a diverse art collection and a brand-new performance stage, all housed in a bigger, brighter and bolder space.
In March 2022, the airport unveiled plans to expand the C gates area. This part of the main terminal will be transformed with the addition of four floors above the existing building, which will add 145,530 square feet of dining and retail space plus amenities like an interfaith prayer and meditation room, a nursing suite and an Alaska Airlines lounge measuring more than 20,000 square feet. At the center of the redesigned space will be The Grand Stairs at C, which will offer seating and runway views, among other highlights.
Here’s our comprehensive guide to everything Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has to offer, from dining establishments and lounges to hotels, transportation options and more.
The airport is located around 14 miles south of downtown Seattle and about 25 miles northeast of Tacoma. Several public transportation options to and from the airport are available, including public buses and Seattle’s light rail system.
Two bus operators have routes that make stops at the airport: King County Metro and Sound Transit.
The airport’s King County Metro bus stops, which are accessible via a walkway through the parking garage’s fourth floor, are located at the intersection of Washington state Route 99 (or International Boulevard, as noted by the metro) and South 176th Street by the Link light rail system’s SeaTac/Airport Station. You can get to them by taking the A Line of the metro’s RapidRide bus, Route 156 or Route 161.
Sound Transit also operates two express bus routes. ST Route 560 is ideal for those coming from areas east of Seattle, including places like Bellevue, while ST Route 574 is best suited for those traveling from locales farther south, such as Tacoma and Federal Way. Both routes will pick you up and drop you off at the main terminal’s south end.
Transit time: Long (depending on traffic).
Link light rail
SeaTac/Airport Station, the airport stop on Seattle’s Link light rail system, is reachable from the fourth floor of the parking garage and via a walkway from International Boulevard. The light rail’s 1 Line extends from Angle Lake to Northgate and includes stops in several South Seattle neighborhoods, in central Seattle areas like the Stadium District and the Chinatown-International District, by the University of Washington and more in addition to the airport. It is operated by Sound Transit.
Transit time: Medium.
Premier Airport Shuttle provides van service between the airport and hotels, homes and businesses throughout the Greater Puget Sound area, including Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue. Standard reservations are for shared vehicles, but for an extra fee, you can also reserve a private van. The shuttle will drop you off or pick you up on the third floor of the airport’s parking garage.
Transit time: Long.
Three ride-hailing services can take you to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: Uber, Lyft and Wingz. For drop-offs, your driver will typically take you to the departures area of the terminal, though you may be taken to the arrivals section if there’s a lot of traffic. If you’re leaving the airport, most cars will pick you up on the third floor of the parking garage.
Transit time: Medium (depending on traffic).
Flat-rate and metered taxis can be used to get to and from the airport. To catch a cab at the airport, head to the north or south curb of the parking garage’s third floor. Metered cabs are one color and have a three-digit vehicle number, while flat-rate taxis are two colors and have a four-digit vehicle number. The latter charges passengers one set price based on zip code.
Transit time: Medium (depending on traffic).
You can arrange limousines, black car services and more for airport rides. Some reputable companies include Execucar, Blacklane, 5 Star Luxury Transportation and Signature Limousine Service. Additionally, there are Lyft Lux and Uber Premium, upgraded rides from ride-hailing companies that are similar to those offered by executive car services.
Transit time: Short.
If you’re renting a car, you’ll need to visit the airport’s separate rental car facility. Complimentary shuttles travel between the rental car center and the airport, with two airport stops available (one at the north end by Alaska Airlines and another at the south end close to the international carriers). The shuttle ride takes about five minutes.
Location: Before security on the mezzanine level (above the exits for the B gates).
Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 to 4 a.m.; Thursdays from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Access: Active-duty, retired and active reserve military members and their dependents.
Amenities: At this lounge, you’ll find a family room, a bunk room, showers, a snack bar and a lounge area that includes four big-screen TVs, a workstation with computers and a library. All services are free.
Tip: This USO lounge is one of the country’s busiest, as it handles numerous flights for military personnel arriving from and departing for Japan and Korea, so prepare accordingly.
Delta Sky Club
Location: Concourse A, gate A1.
Hours: Daily from 4:15 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Access: Delta Gold Medallions and higher traveling internationally; SkyTeam Elite Plus members; premium cabin passengers who are connecting to or from same-day SkyTeam international long-haul or premium transcontinental flights; Delta Sky Club members; and primary cardholders of The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card when traveling on any same-day Delta flight. Those with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card can purchase day passes for $39 when flying on a same-day Delta flight.
Related: Guide to Delta SkyClub access
Amenities: Complimentary amenities here include hot and cold food, wine, beer, spirits and Starbucks coffee, plus access to power charging stations, workstations, Wi-Fi and six shower suites stocked with Malin + Goetz shower products.
Tip: Artwork by local artists is featured throughout the lounge.
Location: Concourse A, on the mezzanine level across from gate A10.
Hours: Daily from 4:15 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Access: A same-day United boarding pass is required. Premium cabin passengers with international itineraries or passengers in United business class on a premium transcontinental flight; Star Alliance Gold members with international flights on United or a Star Alliance member airline; United Club members; United Club Infinite Card cardholders; one-time pass holders; and Air Canada Maple Leaf Club North America members can access the lounge. You get two one-time United Club passes annually by signing up for the entry-level United Explorer Card. Anyone can buy a one-time pass for the United Club for $59 at club locations or through the United app when you present a same-day boarding pass from United or a partner airline.
Amenities: All lounge guests enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks, light meals and cocktails in this space. A selection of alcoholic beverages is also available for an additional fee.
The Club at SEA
Location: Across from gate A12.
Hours: Every day from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Access: You can buy a day pass for $45 or use your Priority Pass access that is a part of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, among other card options. Enrollment is required for select benefits.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Amenities: Free Wi-Fi, snacks and beverages are available in this lounge. It also features workstations, a TV, newspapers and a meeting room that can accommodate up to 10 people.
The American Express Centurion Lounge
Location: Opposite gate B3.
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Access: Amex Centurion Lounge access is complimentary for those with a The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or the Centurion Card from American Express.
Amenities: Lounge amenities include a living wall, a full bar with wine and Seattle-inspired cocktails, a shower suite, Wi-Fi and power stations. Visitors can also enjoy locally inspired snacks and small meals for free.
Tip: Photos on the wall celebrate musicians with local connections, such as Ray Charles.
Alaska Airlines Lounge
Location: By gate C16A, on the mezzanine level.
Hours: Every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Access: Free for Alaska Lounge members, day pass holders and passengers with paid first-class or first-class award tickets. Those with an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card get a 50% discount on day passes. For everyone else, day passes are available for $60 per person and can be purchased at any Alaska Lounge. You must have a same-day ticket to enter.
Amenities: Wi-Fi, power chargers, a barista and a popular pancake-making machine are available to all guests. The lounge also offers complimentary snacks and small meals throughout the day, plus complimentary cocktails, wine and beer.
Alaska Airlines Lounge
Location: Next to gate D1, just beyond security.
Hours: Daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Access: Alaska Lounge members; day pass holders; passengers with paid first-class or first-class award tickets. Alaska Airlines Visa cardholders get 50% off for day passes. A same-day ticket is required to visit.
Amenities: Free snacks, small meals, wine, beer and cocktails are provided. Wi-Fi, power chargers and a pancake-making machine are available.
Alaska Airlines Lounge
Location: Above gates N13-18 on the mezzanine level.
Hours: Daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Access: Alaska Lounge members, day pass holders and passengers with paid first-class or first-class award tickets can visit. Alaska Airlines Visa cardholders can purchase day passes for 50% less. A same-day ticket is needed to enter.
Amenities: The 15,800-square-foot flagship Alaska Lounge has a fireplace, Wi-Fi, power chargers, a coffee bar with baristas and a pancake-making machine. Complimentary snacks, light meals and drinks, including West Coast wines and local beers on draft, are available. You can also purchase upgraded meals and premium wine and spirits.
Tip: Order a coffee drink with foam so the baristas can impress you with their airplane-themed foam art.
British Airways Terraces Lounge
Location: Close to gate S10, after security.
Hours: Daily from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Access: Business-class and first-class passengers traveling on a British Airways or a Oneworld flight; British Airways Executive Club Silver or Gold Card members; and Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald elite status members (who can bring one guest each).
Amenities: Wi-Fi, computers, a library, magazines and a shower stocked with Elemis products are a few features of this lounge. Complimentary drinks and food, including hot soup and sandwiches, are offered. A first-class passenger lounge area with its own entrance and amenities like premium wine, liquor and cheese and snacks, including a popular Mediterranean plate, is also available.
Tip: Flying to London? Order a martini shaken, not stirred, like James Bond.
The Club at SEA
Location: Next to Gate S9.
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Access: Buy a day pass for $40 or gain entry with a Priority Pass membership, which is complimentary for those with a Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Enrollment is required for select benefits.
Amenities: Wi-Fi, computer workstations, a TV and newspapers are available. Enjoy free snacks and beverages, including specialty cocktails.
For those without lounge access or in search of something local or different, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport offers plenty of dining and drinking options worth arriving early to sample. Thanks to an ongoing overhaul of concessionaires at Sea-Tac, there are lots of new and exciting options available.
Once you pass through security, you’ll be able to access all airside areas of the airport. For a full list of what’s currently open, see the Port of Seattle website.
If you’re in a hurry or just want to avoid crowds, consider ordering your food to pick up or have delivered to your gate. You won’t be limited to dining options in your terminal and can order from either OrderSEA (a mobile food ordering service that offers delivery to your gate) or the FlySEA App.
Starbucks serves coffee, baked goods, salads and sandwiches, while Sourced Market offers handcrafted deli dishes and regionally sourced products. Both are located before security in the ticketing area near checkpoints 3 and 4.
The Central Terminal is home to a variety of options, including fast-casual salad concept Evergreens, Italian-inspired Pallino, a Starbucks Evenings outpost, full-service Stonehouse Café and Bar and the Vyne Washington Tasting Room. There’s also Trail Head BBQ Bar, which is part of the Priority Pass restaurant program.
Koi Shi Sushi Bento
Location: Central Terminal.
Hours: Sunday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cuisine: Asian; family-friendly; beer and wine.
Lucky Louie Fish Shack
Location: Central Terminal.
Hours: Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest; family-friendly.
Tip: Watch the creamy cheesecake-filled Sweet Waffle Fish get made in special molds in the Lucky Louie window, then order a warm half-dozen (or baker’s dozen) with the berry or salted caramel dip.
Sit down and grab-and-go options in concourse A include La Pisa Café, the Mountain Room bar and the Capitol Hill Food Hall, which has eight food and beverage concepts and a live music space.
Location: Near gate A4.
Hours: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Cuisine: African and American; family-friendly; full bar.
Floret by Café Flora
Location: By gate A1.
Hours: Every day from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m for grab-and-go dining; daily from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for sit-down service.
Cuisine: Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free; family-friendly; full bar.
Tip: Some Floret menu highlights include biscuits and (mushroom) gravy, Oaxaca-inspired tacos and aged macaroni and cheese. The bar menu includes local beers and ciders. Don’t miss the Instagram-worthy Purple Rain cocktail, which is made with lavender-hued Empress 1908 gin, lemon lavender shrub and sparkling rose wine.
Concourse B is home to several quick-service options, including a McDonald’s, a Starbucks and a QDOBA Mexican Eats. Additionally, there’s LouLou Market and Bar, an eatery that draws inspiration from France and the Pacific Northwest.
Mi Casa Cantina
Location: By gate B8.
Hours: Daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cuisine: Mexican street food; family-friendly; full bar.
Rel’Lish Burger Lounge
Location: Close to gate B4.
Hours: Daily from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cuisine: American; family-friendly; full bar.
Concourse C dining options range from Hachi-ko (an Asian grab-and-go spot with teriyaki dishes, sushi and poke, among other items) to Dish D’Lish (which serves a selection of healthy to-go fare).
Le Grand Comptoir
Location: Near gate C10F.
Hours: Thursday through Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cuisine: Small plates, salads and cheeses and charcuterie; family-friendly; full bar.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
Location: Near gate C3.
Hours: Every day from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest, salads and sandwiches; family-friendly.
Tip: Lines are often long here, so remember to build in time for a wait.
Although dining options in concourse D are limited, there are a few spots available. Camden Food Co. offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, drinks and snacks. Ballard Brew Hall serves American comfort classics like pulled pork sandwiches and flatbreads, plus a selection of brews. A Starbucks is also available.
Poke to the Max
Location: By gate D6.
Hours: Every day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cuisine: Hawaiian-fusion; family-friendly; full bar.
Tip: Try the Reconstructed Musubi, which is made with a roasted nori seaweed wrap, rice, spam and egg frittata.
If you’re traveling on an Alaska Airlines flight or don’t mind the short train ride out to the N Gates, you’ll find three dining options, including Caffé D’arte and Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen & Bar.
Location: Near gate N18.
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cuisine: American; family-friendly; full bar.
Tip: While Skillet offers everything from burgers and sandwiches to macaroni and cheese and meatloaf, the eatery is known for its bacon jam. It will add it to pretty much anything on the menu.
The S Gates at SEA (reached by a short train ride from the main terminal) are slated for a much-needed upgrade, so you may want to dine or grab something to take away in the main terminal before heading that way. Still, you will find a few options open, including a Peet’s Coffee location, Asian-influenced 6th Avenue Noodle House, Greedy Cow Burger and Tap and Pour (which offers beers from local and regional breweries).
Dungeness Bay Seafood House
Location: Close to gate S2.
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Cuisine: American and seafood; family-friendly; full bar.
The Seattle airport features an array of retail shops selling everything from travel essentials to luxury goods from brands like Coach and Swarovski.
You can pick up Seattle-inspired bags, mugs and more from Chalo Seattle in concourse C or specialty foods from the larger state at Made in Washington in the Central Terminal, should you find yourself looking for some last-minute souvenirs for loved ones. Another favorite is concourse C’s Show Pony, a locally owned boutique with clothing, jewelry and cards, among other items.
If you’re an AvGeek, check out Planewear in the Central Terminal. This store sells all kinds of aviation-themed products, including apparel with logos from iconic airlines like TWA and Pan Am.
For families, the Seattle airport offers numerous amenities for those traveling with kids of all ages, such as a play area and private single-family nursing rooms in concourse A, a nursing suite in the North Satellite terminal and smaller nursing pods in concourses A and C and the South Satellite terminal.
If you run out of baby supplies, don’t fret: The airport has you covered with vending machines stocked with essentials like wipes, diapers, snacks and pacifiers. You’ll find the machines by gate N15 and at the Children’s Play Area in concourse A. Select restroom vending machines also sell diapers.
Music and art
Befitting a city that created the grunge music genre, this airport features a stage in the North Satellite terminal that hosts up-and-coming artists as well as headlining names. Performances take place every Friday between 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Additionally, the airport is home to more than 100 works of art throughout its terminals and concourses. Download the iOS or Android versions of the STQRY app to get a guided tour of the collection, which includes contemporary glass pieces, sculptures, photographs and paintings.
A room dedicated to interfaith prayer and meditation can be found in the Main Terminal on the train platform level by the A gates. It has special dimmable lighting to help you stay calm and focused, plus religious amenities like a kneeling prayer bench and a qibla direction pointer.
Related: The best airport amenities
Several accommodation options are available by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. These hotels not only offer proximity to the airport, but they are also only 15 to 20 minutes away from Seattle and Tacoma, making them equally convenient for sightseeing. Here are a few options, with pricing based on a one-night stay in September 2022.
Aloft Seattle Sea-Tac Airport
This hotel has a distinct hipster vibe. There’s a complimentary shuttle service that covers the airport and nearby destinations. Plus, guests have access to a fitness center with free weights, cardio equipment and yoga mats. Another highlight is the hotel’s WXYZ Bar, which serves craft cocktails and delectable appetizers. Rooms are pet-friendly, have free Wi-Fi and come equipped with minifridges. Expect a standard king room to cost you $195 or 27,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Seattle Airport
One of the perks of staying in a Doubletree hotel is its signature chocolate chip cookies, and you can anticipate seeing them at this Hilton outpost. Each room comes with a coffee maker, a 37-inch HDTV, a hair dryer and an iron and ironing board. Additionally, guests have access to an airport shuttle, free Wi-Fi, an on-site restaurant, an outdoor pool and a fitness center. A standard room with a king-size bed and a balcony starts at $196 or 50,000 Hilton Honors points a night.
Crowne Plaza Seattle Airport
At this hotel, you’ll have a complimentary airport shuttle, a free shuttle to a nearby mall, complimentary Wi-Fi and sleep aromatherapy kits you can use throughout your stay. Other noteworthy amenities include a fitness center, an outdoor pool and a restaurant inspired by the Pacific Northwest. Rates for standard king rooms will run you a minimum of $192 or 33,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.
Related: Best hotel credit cards
Featured photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
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