Labor Day Holiday Brings Final Rush to Summer Travel Season at SEA Airport

Labor Day Holiday Brings Final Rush to Summer Travel Season at SEA Airport

The final days of summer are here and you won’t be lonely if you’re traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) airport for the Labor Day holiday. About 10 percent more travelers will be at the gates over the holiday compared to last year. That’s still 10 percent less than pre-pandemic levels, but travelers won’t notice the difference – it will be busy! With that in mind, SEA Airport is encouraging travelers to think ahead, arrive early, be prepared for congestion, and find ways to make your trip easier with advanced planning or Be a Hero at the Airport!

Parking will continue to be a challenge as more travelers have been using their own vehicles, although our new automated parking guidance system now has four of the eight floors completed! Alternate ways to get to SEA are encouraged such as using rideshares, Link Light Rail, and public transit. Please factor in more time to avoid tight squeezes to get to your flight. Better early than late!

By The Numbers

Labor Day holiday passenger numbers are expected to be 10 percent higher than in 2021 — that’s about 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels from 2019. Volumes in August have been ahead of July with a projection of about 4.7 million passengers for the month (compared to nearly 4.6 million for July). Through July, overall passenger traffic for 2022 reached 25.4 million, down 13.8 percent from 2019 levels (29.5 million), but up 37% from 2021 (18.5 million).

A couple of additional interesting facts in the numbers:

  • International travel is rebounding at SEA with more services available now than before the pandemic. This year new airlines (Turkish Airlines, Finnair, and Tahiti Nui in October) and new destinations (Edmonton/Alaska Airlines, Montreal/Air Canada) have been added, bringing a total of 45 international services to 28 destinations by 25 airlines this fall.
  • European travel recovered to 100% of 2019 levels in July.
  • Mexico/Central America services grew 263% in July versus 2019.
  • All China services have yet to resume due to pandemic restrictions.

The busiest days are expected to be Friday, September 2, with a forecasted 155,000 passengers traveling through the airport (departing, arriving, and connecting). The next busiest will be Thursday, September 1, projecting 149,000 overall passengers through the airport, followed by Monday, September 5 with a projected 146,000 travelers through the airport. Pre-pandemic passenger numbers reached as high as 185,000 per day during Labor Day weekend in 2019. Overall, the busiest days to travel are Thursdays and Fridays as well as Sundays and Mondays, with TSA security checkpoints busiest at SEA from 5 – 10 am, 2 – 5 pm, and 9 -11 pm

SEA’s latest forecasts of passenger numbers for 2022 will be about 10% below 2019 levels with 2023 down 3% returning to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. Dig in more on our Statistics page.

What’s the Best Advice for Travelers?

  • Get here early! Depending on your needs, you may need more time. Make sure you’re at the airport at least two hours before your boarding time for a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight
  • Masks are not required at the airport, but highly recommended by the CDC to wear during travel. Check your destination’s COVID-19 requirements for entry. If needed XpresCheck has testing available on the baggage claim level.
  • The SEA Airport parking garage continues to be busy. Think of alternate modes of travel to get to the airport or arrive 45 minutes earlier to find a place to park.
  • Worried about the checkpoints? Use SEA Spot Saver to reserve your spot in the TSA line and avoid congested security lines at the airport
  • Download (or update!) the flySEA App for live checkpoint wait times. As a bonus, it also is a one-stop resource for traveler alerts, parking spot tracker, maps, and more info
  • Be prepared with your airline ahead of time! Make sure you check their baggage policies, check in, and have all their apps downloaded for efficient travel. See our best baggage tips!
  • Use Order SEAour mobile ordering service, including gate delivery for food from all over the airport or pick up so you can grab and go to your gate.
  • Get ahead of the game! Download your airline’s app to check-in to your flight, download your boarding pass, and pay for your bag.
  • Explore the latest dining and retail in your concourse! Including two new small business shops near Gate A1 that recently opened, Glass Eye Studio and Africa’s Best!

Airport Parking Will be a Challenge

Why is parking so congested? Demand is up and supply is down. More customers are driving private vehicles than choosing ride share or public transit. Pandemic-related closures reduced the number of parking stalls in the area outside the airport while a garage improvement project and a recent fire has led to temporary reductions at the SEA garage. Shuttle bus driver shortages also continue to impact the availability of off-site parking options for airport employees.

Safety First; Avoid Shoulder Parking

Vehicles are encouraged to use the new reconfigured cellphone lot and avoid dangerous parking along the shoulder of the airport drives. Violators will be cited as the Port of Seattle Police are working with the Washington State Patrol for emphasis patrols during the holiday.

Pro tips: Switch it up to speed it up! If an airport drive is congested use the other one that’s open to pick up and drop off passengers!

Alternate ways to get to SEA Airport

  • Avoid the hassles of driving with Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail. Public transit is by far the best option if you want to stay out of a traffic jam
  • Catch a ride with taxis or app-based rideshares like Uber and Lyft, or other modes of ground transportation
  • Rent your own ride. All rental car companies operate at an off-site rental car facility where dedicated shuttle buses transport passengers for free 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year
  • Power pedals! Yes, you can even bicycle to the airport with bike racks and two ways to access the airport on a bike
  • If you still plan to park, expect 45-60 minutes to find a stall. Off-site parking facilities are also expected to be very busy or already full
  • If you’re picking up or dropping off loved ones:

Give me the Traveler Basics

  1. The CDC guidance for travelers changes depending on your COVID-19 vaccination status. Check with your airline for the state or country where you plan to travel.
  2. Be ready for security checkpoints. SEA and TSA want to help you move through security checkpoints as quickly as possible. Travelers are required to remove electronics larger than a cell phone from carry-on luggage. Also, remove foods and liquids from your carry-on luggage and prepare to hold up your boarding pass for review. You can also see the latest Identification and Documentation Requirements.
  3. Need more travel hacks? Our Customer Care team has the best advice to navigate SEA like a frequent flier.
  4. SEA continues to add new services to make travel more accessible and improve the travel experience beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Check out our SEA Social Story developed for travelers with sensory sensitivities such as autism, but also great overall tips for kids. Learn more about accessibility at SEA. The interactive map on the flySEA App offers accessible route directions.
  5. Check with the City of SeaTac to see if there are any road construction projects that might hinder your access to the airport.


Perry Cooper | Port of Seattle Senior Media Officer
(206) 787-4923 | [email protected]