Sea-Tac officials: Friday will be airport’s busiest day – ever

SEATTLE — Sea-Tac Airport will see its busiest day ever Friday.

That’s right.

Not the day before Thanksgiving. Not over the holidays. But this Friday will be the airports busiest day in history.

And next Friday could be even worse.

Perry Cooper, a spokesperson for Sea-Tac Airport, said they project the airport will see more than 170,000 fliers Friday. That beats the previous one-day record of 165,000, set last August.  The number includes people coming from the airport, leaving and those who have flight transfers.

"This will be our record," Cooper said.

A TSA spokesperson said they expect around 70,000 people to go through TSA check lines Friday. He expects lines to be between a half-hour and 45 minutes at peak times.

Sea-Tac's busiest travel days are usually from June to August, Cooper said, despite what you hear about the day before Thanksgiving.

It's rough timing for Sea-Tac and TSA. On Sunday, low staffing combined with the summer travel season caused TSA wait times to be over an hour most of the day.

Cooper said it was hard on travelers, even for an airport that has gotten increasingly crowded.

"Sunday was one of the worst days we've had," Cooper said. "We've got additional passengers and struggled from a staffing standpoint."

To combat another recurrence of Sunday, TSA officials said they've expedited certification of recently hired TSA officers and increased the pay of staff in order to recruit new officers. But like other places, TSA is having trouble hiring.

Cooper said the busiest times are expected to be between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. Friday, then pick up again in the evening.

This won't be the worst of it, either. The airport will only get busier, Cooper said, with next Friday expected to surpass this week in terms of total passengers.

Tips for managing the crowds  

  1.  Get to the airport early: Two hours early for domestic flights, three hours early for international flights.
  2. Look into precheck: TSA Precheck, Global Entry, Nexus and SENTRI can help you get through the airport check faster.
  3. Think opposite: When picking someone up at the airport during peak hours, consider picking up arrivals in the departure lanes, or vice-versa.
  4. Public transportation: Consider using the Link light rail, rideshares and other forms of public transportation to get to the airport.
  5. Have patience: It's a cliche, but "packing your patience" is a true way to cope with the airport crush.