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Delta Air Lines Resets Bar Higher For Pacific Northwest Hub

Tom Banse

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson says his company wants to nearly double its footprint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

That implies an even stronger challenge than was already in the works to hometown carrier Alaska Airlines.

Anderson visited Seattle last week to discuss expansion plans with airport officials and corporate customers. Afterwards, he recorded a message for his employees.

Anderson said he wants to have 30 gates to operate a global hub. Delta currently uses about 16 airport gates at Sea-Tac.

"We're making good progress on our discussions to upgrade the facility and to turn Seattle into a huge international gateway for Delta,” Anderson said.

The Atlanta-based airline announced no timeline for almost doubling its presence at Sea-Tac. This comes on the heels of a year that already featured rapid growth by the carrier in this region.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is also adding service in the Northwest to defend its dominant position.

Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said it is his understanding that Delta is "not looking for 30 gates next year."

At this time, "We don't have 30 gates specifically for them," Cooper continued. "We're getting pretty packed."

Overall, the international airport has 79 gates to allocate among all airlines. Some are shared among multiple carriers. For context, the airport authority allocated 33 gates this year to Alaska Air Group for use by its mainline jets and regional services.

Cooper said the Port of Seattle is working on an update to its airport master plan, which could call for terminal expansions in the years ahead.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.