Favorite Airports: Sea-Tac

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the gateway to the Pacific Northwest.

This is one of those airports that has one huge terminal with access to several smaller terminals and concourses but handles almost as much traffic as a multi-terminal airport like LaGuardia.  I love the fact that, though it is one huge terminal with a very simplistic terminal roadway network, it has access via shuttle train to several smaller satellite terminals for mainly shorter, regional flights (less than 3 hours), saving the huge terminal for transcon (trans-continental flights, west coast-to-east coast flights) and trans-pacific flights.  This is one of the main hubs for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, though you will see plenty of United and Delta aircraft as well.  Transportation to and from the airport is very good, and driving here is as simple as going around an L-shaped roadway, upper level for departures, lower level for arrivals and ground transportation.

Taking transit to the airport is as simple as taking Sound Transit’s LINK Light Rail from Downtown Seattle or taking King County Metro’s RapidRide A line (a Bus Rapid Transit system) from Federal Way.  (Prior to the LINK and RapidRide, you either took the KC Metro #174 local via International Blvd/Pacific Highway or #194 Express via I-5 from Seattle or Federal Way.)  Sound Transit offers the Express #574 from Tacoma and points south as well as the #560 from West Seattle and points east of SeaTac.  There are also a handful of local buses to take you to Renton, Kent, and Auburn.  The LINK light Rail is relatively new (from 2010) and is set to expand in 2016 south to South 200th Street and north from Downtown Seattle to the University of Washington.  The University LINK should be extended up to Northgate by 2020, and the East LINK should be running out to Bellevue by 2022 or earlier.  King County Metro’s RapidRide is a Bus Rapid Transit system with 5 routes (A, B, C, D, E) which replace or complement local bus service along major corridors in King County.  For riders using an ORCA (One Regional Card for All) smart card, riders can pay at major RapidRide stops before the bus arrives and on the bus at minor stops, while riders with cash and transfer must pay on the bus.  It is a hybrid between a proof-of-payment system on the light rail and a pay-as-you-board system as found on any regular bus service.  ORCA card users can board at any of three doors on the bus, while cash rides are paid for at the farebox at the front door.

Once you get through the many security gates to the main concourse, there is a food court with a huge (actually, more than huge) glass atrium which allows a near 180-degree view of the runways, the woods behind the airport, and mountain range in the Puget Sound region, mainly Mount Baker.  Complete with tables and chairs of all sorts, you can eat a quick lunch all while taking in sights and sounds and watching planes go by.  Definite points in my book.

If you need to get to any regional flights, more than likely you would have to take the remote terminal airport shuttle train to the satellite terminals, all accessible underground underneath the main runways.  It’s a simple tram system, with only three stops for the different terminals, all accessible once you get through the security checkpoints.  Some might consider it a PITA when you are late for a flight, but it surely makes for an interesting experience, having to take a train to another terminal just to catch a flight.  What makes SeaTac’s tram system different from airports such as Pittsburgh International or Tampa International is that not everyone at SeaTac has to take a train to the terminals, since most flights are available at the main concourse.

SeaTac is a simple airport to navigate as well as a great airport for planespotting.  Many domestic airlines and a few international carriers call at SeaTac, including Delta, American Airlines, JetBlue, Virgin America, Cathay Pacific, Alaska Airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways, Horizon Air, and United.  Make your next trip to Seattle and explore the Evergreen City and the surrounding Puget Sound region.  Happy jetting!


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