Home Control Center Pro Tips to Sea-Tac Airport
The Control Center
Sea-Tac Airport Skyline

Frequent Traveler Pro Tips to Sea-Tac Airport

I fly over 150,000 miles a year from my home in Seattle, which means I’m a regular at Sea-Tac Airport. But I haven’t written much about it besides the occasional update on new construction. That’s why I thought it was a great idea when National Car Rental reached out and asked me to write a post about some of the insider secrets at Sea-Tac Airport. Here are some of my favorite tips on moving through the airport quickly and making the most of your time before the next flight.

Know the Security Schedule

There’s been a lot of news lately about long lines at airport security, and Sea-Tac is no exception. At one point, I recall hearing about two-hour waits or longer. Fortunately there are five different security checkpoints. Pick any one you like, since all gates are connected in the secure area.

  • Checkpoint #5 (near Alaska Airlines): 4 AM – 1:30 PM
  • Checkpoint #4 (near American Airlines and Southwest Airlines): 4 AM – 8 PM
  • Checkpoint #3 (near Delta Air Lines and JetBlue): 24 hours
  • Checkpoint #2 (near United Airlines and international carriers): 4 AM – 8 PM
  • Checkpoint #1 is for cruise passengers only and has limited hours.
Sea-Tac Airport Terminal Map
Map of security checkpoints at Sea-Tac Airport. Image credit: Port of Seattle

I also recommend you consider enrolling in PreCheck. Two alternative services, Global Entry and NEXUS, include access to PreCheck as well as expedited customs and immigration. If you’re worried about a long wait to complete your interview, the Customs and Border Patrol office usually accepts walk-in visitors as long as they already have an appointment scheduled in the future.

Although all security checkpoints are equipped for PreCheck, you may be directed to an adjacent checkpoint if demand is low. Checkpoint #3 is generally the safe bet. On a good day, travelers enrolled in PreCheck can drive from downtown Seattle and reach the other side of security in 30 minutes.

Don’t Worry about Connections

Many travelers are just in Seattle to catch another flight, aren’t familiar with the airport, and may be worried about how much time they need between flights. Fortunately, connections at Sea-Tac are a breeze.

Terminal at Sea-Tac Airport.
Terminal at Sea-Tac Airport.

There’s no need to clear security again unless you’re arriving from an international flight, and most travelers can expect to walk less than half a mile (5-10 minutes) to their next gate. To speed things along, three automated trains run every few minutes between the far ends of the Central Terminal and connect them to the North and South Satellites.

Peace and Quiet

There has been huge growth in traffic at Sea-Tac in recent years, and along with new flights come new lounges and amenities to keep you occupied while you wait. Delta is building a second Sky Club near the entrance to Concourse A, American Express recently opened its first Centurion Studio in Concourse B, and Alaska Airlines now has a second lounge open in the North Satellite. There are also options from United Airlines, The Club, and British Airways.

Caffé Vita at Sea-Tac Airport.
Caffé Vita at Sea-Tac Airport.

If you need someplace to work in silence but don’t feel like splurging on a lounge, the airport has several areas designed to offer some solitude. Gate B4 is known for having a “Quiet Zone” with powered seats and no televisions, but Concourse B also tends to get congested due to its small size. Concourse A, however, often has lots of empty seats between gates and less foot traffic. The far side (lower numbered gates) in the North Satellite is also relatively peaceful.

And before you ask, internet access is free throughout the airport with no time limits. Just connect and click past the initial advertisement.

Grab a Bite

We love our coffee in Seattle, and one of the best places to get your fix is Caffé Vita, which shares space with Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Concourse C. Between the two you can get a perfect latte, a breakfast sandwich, and some local snacks to take home. Those with a sweet tooth may prefer to visit one of two Dilettante Mocha Cafés in the main food court and the North Satellite. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf fans should head to Concourse A. (There are plenty of Starbucks outlets, too.)

Anthony’s Restaurant and Fish Bar at Sea-Tac Airport.
Anthony’s Restaurant and Fish Bar at Sea-Tac Airport.

If you have more time for a sit-down meal, Anthony’s Restaurant and Fish Bar is always a good choice. But consider taking a walk across the street (turn right outside baggage claim) to 13 Coins. This 24-hour restaurant has been known for plush leather seats and generous portions since the first location opened in 1967.

Art on the Move

The Port of Seattle is proud to feature over 100 works of art scattered throughout the airport, including large sculptures and murals. There are even rotating exhibits from the Museum of Glass in nearby Tacoma, where artists have re-created whimsical creatures drawn by schoolchildren.

Tacoma Museum of Glass exhibit at Sea-Tac Airport.
Tacoma Museum of Glass exhibit at Sea-Tac Airport.

If you can spare the time, download the Port of Seattle’s mobile app to learn more about the different installations. There’s also a self-guided tour that runs from the Central Terminal food court to Concourse A.

Not all art is visual. Seattle has a rich musical culture, and that’s reflected at Sea-Tac with live performances, displays of vintage concert posters, and even public announcements recorded by famous musicians.

Parking Smart

Sea-Tac has limited parking, but offers numerous transit options to get you to or from the airport quickly. Among the largest investments is a new off-site rental car garage for visitors. You can catch a shuttle on the departure level near baggage carousel 1 or 15, operating 24 hours a day, to pick up your car from National.

Vintage music posters at Sea-Tac Airport.
Vintage music posters at Sea-Tac Airport.

Although off-site garages sound inconvenient, the new location actually makes a lot of sense. It’s right at the entrance to the airport access road near SR-518, so once you’re in the car you can reach the highway quickly. You’ll also be able to return it without waiting in traffic jams near the terminal.

Those driving their own car and departing from Sea-Tac should consider Terminal Direct, a premium service offered by the Port of Seattle with direct access to the pedestrian bridges on Level 4. It costs $45 per day vs. $28 for general parking on other levels. Or, pay $350 a month for a monthly parking pass with guaranteed availability in Terminal Direct – it’s a great option for anyone traveling more than seven days a month.

For Everything Else, There’s Ken

Anything not mentioned above is probably a question for Ken’s Baggage and Frozen Food Storage, which is located near baggage carousel 12. They offer more than a place to keep your stuff – they’re like a concierge for any important task you might need to take care of at the airport.

Ken’s Baggage and Frozen Food Storage at Sea-Tac Airport.
Ken’s Baggage and Frozen Food Storage at Sea-Tac Airport.

Notary, copy, and shipping services will be especially important to business travelers, whether you’re about to take off or have just landed and are on your way to a meeting. And in case you left your lights on, Ken’s can even provide help to jump a battery.