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Air travel approaching pre-pandemic levels, but lines at Sea-Tac appear low

About 50 people spread out to different lines at a security check point in an airport.
Mayowa Aina
Lines and wait times are lower than anticipated at Sea-Tac International Airport just before the Thanksgiving holiday on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.

The start of the holiday season can mean lots of food, hopefully some relaxation ... and for those who are traveling, it can mean long lines.

Millions of people are expected to be flying around the country this holiday season.

About 1.5 million of them are projected to pass through Sea-Tac International Airport in the days around Thanksgiving. That’s approaching pre-pandemic levels.

Those figures may conjure up memories of wildly long lines at ticket counters and security checks, but the airport appeared to be running smoothly Wednesday morning.

Wait times have been about five to 10 minutes, said Sea-Tac spokesperson Perry Cooper.

“It’s pretty wide open. So we're doing really well at this time of day,” Cooper said. “I'm a bit surprised too now that I look at it.”

Cooper attributes the smoothness to a combination of staff that help keep people moving, and new operations at the airport. Things like a spot saver app that allows travelers to sign up for a specific time to go through security are maing a difference.

"Instead of waiting for 20-30 minutes the entire time in that space, you show up for your assigned spot, you go right into the lane, and you're going in.”

Cooper says the airport is getting busy again, a very different scene from what it was like at the height of the pandemic.

“We were down to a point where you could roll a bowling ball down Concourse A and not only would nobody hear it, nobody would be paying attention to it because there was nobody there,” Cooper said. “It was kind of crazy. Now, it looks a lot busier.”

Cooper still encourages travelers to arrive early and use tips like taking transportation other than their personal cars.

Airport officials are expecting the most traffic the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Mayowa Aina covers cost-of-living and affordability issues in Western Washington. She focuses on how people do (or don't) make ends meet, impacts on residents' earning potential and proposed solutions for supporting people living at the margins of our community. Get in touch with her by emailing