Airplanes at SeaTac Airport at night

Could Albert Einstein have been referring to driving to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) when he said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”?

When it comes to travel, old habits die hard. But in a growing city with a major hub for air travel, there comes a time when switching things up pays dividends in reduced day-of stress and a more relaxed trip to the airport.

It’s a good time to give it a try. As the population of Seattle has grown significantly, so has demand for air travel. In July, SEA Airport recorded the busiest day in the history of the airport. To put this into context, SEA Airport welcomed 198,000 departing, connecting and arriving travelers on one day last summer: That’s equivalent to the fourth-largest city in the state.

That increased travel volume puts pressure on the expressway coming into the airport, which is one of the most space-constrained in the country. That road was built to accommodate just 25 million passengers per year, and SEA is currently on track to exceed more than 50 million — and still growing.

Did you know that individuals driving to the airport is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions for ground transportation?

Help is coming, with major terminal construction initiatives already underway; but in the meantime, it’s a good idea to plan ahead when it’s time to catch a flight. Your tried-and-true airport transportation habits may still work during slower travel periods, but it’s wise to be more strategic during peak periods like Spring Break, summer vacation and the winter holidays. Save your sanity — and be gentler on the planet — with these tips on alternative transportation.


Tip 1:  Relax with light rail

One of the cheapest and most relaxing ways to avoid peak time backups on the airport drive is to use Link light rail. If you live near a light rail station, consider taking it door-to-door. If not, plan to get dropped off or picked up at a light rail stop right before SEA Airport.

To and from the north

Link light rail runs from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Sunday and holidays. Transit time from the airport to Seattle is around 45 minutes.

To and from the South

Bonus tip: The walk from the airport station to the terminal will help you get your steps in before all that sitting on your flight. The distance from the station to the terminal is 950 feet, 316 yards or about a seven to nine-minute walk from the north end of the baggage claim level. That’s equivalent to about 1.57 times the height of the Space Needle laid on its side (but no stairs!), 379 steps on your pedometer,  or hole number six at Bandon Dunes Golf Course.

Need transportation from the light rail to the terminal?

Take the light rail shuttle — it’s free and available  for everyone. With only a five to 10-minute wait between shuttle carts, you no longer have to walk between the station and the terminal unless you want to.

Ever wondered why the light rail terminal wasn’t built closer to the terminal? Or why there’s no moving walkway? Here are the answers!

The shuttle operates between 5 a.m. and midnight at the entrance to the walkway at the station or just south of the blue elevators next to the terminal.

Tell the driver which airline you are flying with, and they will drop you off at the appropriate location.

Find more on how to take Link light rail to SEA Airport here.

Tip 2: Share the road — and the ride

Avoid the hassle of driving and parking by taking a shared shuttle, available from many convenient locations in communities throughout Washington. Leave the driving to the shuttle operator, and use the travel time to eat your breakfast, take a snooze, read a book, or chat with fellow passengers.

Tip 3: Door-to-door drop-off

Nothing beats the convenience of a pick-up or drop-off right at your door. There are several ways to arrange direct transportation between your home  and the airport.

App-based rideshare

Most app-based rideshare pick-up areas are in the middle of the third floor of the airport parking garage in stall numbers marked 1–34. Follow the signs to the orange and purple sections of the garage. Here’s where to go for specific rideshare companies:

  • All Lyft, UberPool and UberX rides: Third floor of SEA Airport parking garage
  • Uber Black: The door you select outside of baggage claim

Read about rideshare at SEA Airport here.

Take a taxi

Both flat-rate and metered taxis are available from SEA Airport. The taxi stand is on the third floor of the parking garage.

  • Metered taxis charge by the mile or time, can be identified with a three-digit vehicle number and are painted a single color.
  • Flat rate taxis offer a flat rate based on zip code, use a four-digit vehicle number, and are painted in two colors.

Learn more about taxiing here.

Switch to the shuttle

Premier Airport Shuttle provides shared and private door-to-door van service to any home, hotel, or business address with convenient luggage assistance. Service is available between the airport and any destination in the Greater Puget Sound area, including Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Kent, Everett, Federal Way, Kirkland, Redmond, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Olympia, Edmonds, Bremerton and more. It operates seasonally scheduled cruise ship and downtown Seattle airport transfers.

Learn more about scheduling a shuttle.

A family walks through the SeaTac airport

Tip 4:  Call in for curbside pickup

Need accessible transportation to and from the airport? With curbside pick-up and drop-off, you’re covered.


Travelers with limited mobility or who use a wheelchair or other assistive devices may request curbside pick-up on the baggage claim level by Skybridge 2 near Door 10 and Skybridge 5 near Door 22. Please tell your taxi service provider that you require mobility assistance to ensure they meet you at these locations.


Rideshare providers are allowed to do passenger pick-up on the drives for customers who need additional assistance. When requesting a pick-up from Uber or Lyft, tell your driver that you need accessible transportation and need to be picked up on the drive. You or your driver should call to authorize drive access at 206-787-5906 and provide the driver’s name and license plate number.

Learn more about accessible transportation to and from the airport.

Tip 5:  Survive the drive with advance preparation

If you’re driving to pick up a traveler, a little advance planning (and these resources) goes a long way:

  • Opt in to SEA Text Alerts by texting YES1 to 27829 to keep up with breaking news. Messaging and data rates may apply.
  • Check the Travel Tips page the night before to learn about any construction impacts.
  • Plan in extra time for traffic and check the drive cams on the SEA website; if you get there early, wait in the cell phone lot until your passenger’s flight has landed.
  • Do not stop on the shoulder of the airport drives; you will be ticketed and asked to move.
  • Proceed to the middle of the drop-off zone rather than stopping at the very first load-and-unload zone.
  • Use the arrivals (lower) level to drop passengers off in the morning and the departures (upper) level to pick them up in the evening.
  • To avoid traffic, park in the garage when you pick up your passenger. Grab a snack while you’re waiting, help them with their bags, then return to the car. For the cost of an hour of parking ($8), you can avoid congestion on the drives.
An overhead view of a parking garage at night

Tip 6: Don’t be in the dark when you park

Gone are the days of easy parking 90 minutes before your flight. If you need to drive to the airport and park, the best advice is to expect the unexpected and prepare in advance by:

  • Adding up to 45 minutes to your travel plan to allow enough time to find a parking spot in the garage, with a backup plan that ensures you’re in the terminal two hours before your flight boards if traveling domestically. Budget three hours for international flights.
  • Using the automated guidance system that shows you the number of available parking spaces on each floor and directs you to an open space (indicated in green).
  • For accessible parking, use the ADA-designated spaces on either the fourth or fifth floor of the airport parking garage. When you arrive, arrange wheelchair assistance through Prospect Airport Services at 206246-1550.

Find more on accessible parking.

Tip 7: Slide through security

Now that you’ve had an easy trip to the airport, what’s better than standing in the security line? Literally anything! Your time is valuable and your experience matters. Don’t arrive at peak times without a backup plan: 

  • Check the security wait times on the FlySEA app.
  • Sign up for an expedited travel program like TSA Precheck or CLEAR. Read this handy list of pros and cons of each program.
  • Skip the TSA security line with free timed entry through SEA Spot Saver.

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