My entire life, my family has been involved with the Air Force, commercial or government aviation. Fast forward to today, nothing has changed. I love flying out of SeaTac International Airport, and doing so is a major part of my life since my wife and I work in different states. Often times I talk to folks who ask how I can put up with the frequency of an airport, and it reminds me that perfecting my experience has been a longtime coming.
Before mobile boarding passes, priority service, dedicated waiting areas or ride services, getting to and navigating the airport was a chore. For those who may not fly often, many of these innovations may still be unfamiliar and we resort to standing in lines, lines and more lines before finally waiting in a herd to board our flight.
Here are my tips and tricks to improve your experience at SeaTac International Airport:
Get Dropped Off
If you live nearby, take an Uber or Lyft to the airport. Otherwise, buy lunch for a friend or family member and ask them to give you a ride in exchange. Avoid the headache of parking at the airport or waiting for a shuttle and keep control of your schedule.
Don’t Check a Bag
You don’t need all that stuff. Even when traveling internationally, you don’t need any more than your small carry-on and a backpack. By not checking a bag, you permit yourself to move directly to the security checkpoint, rather than standing in line waiting to check your luggage, or waiting for it after you land at your final destination. In addition, you remove the risk of your bag being lost or stolen once it is out of your sight.
Download the App
Make sure you have downloaded the mobile app for your airline, and that you’ve checked in using the app before arrival. Have your mobile boarding pass stored on your phone locally (such as the Apple Wallet) so you’re not reliant on phone service. This eliminates any need to visit a guest services counter or kiosk once onsite.
Have a Known Traveler Number (KTN)
Whether you opt for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, having a KTN costs as little as $17/year and allows you to access the TSA Pre-Check line which not only expedites your security screening, but allows you NOT to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets.
Prepare for Security
Assuming you have a KTN, all you need out when you enter the expedited line is your mobile boarding pass (phone) and ID. Have everything else out of your pockets and in your backpack before arriving since you won’t need them anyway. After presenting your ID and Boarding Pass at the checkpoint, stow these in your backpack as well and you’re ready to fly through the physical inspection.
Enjoy the Lounge
Once you’ve made it through security, head straight for the lounge. As I’ve told you before, if you’re carrying the American Express Platinum card, you’re entitled to several lounges including the Centurion Lounge and the Delta Sky Club (when flying Delta). Both lounges offer complimentary food and drink (including liquor) and provide a comfortable, quiet ambiance while you wait for your flight to board.
Leave Just in Time
Flights board 40 minutes prior to the departure time. I recommend leaving the comfort of your lounge at this “start time.” By the time you arrive to your gate, you will have just missed the first call for passengers requiring extra time (such as parents with children) and elite passengers thereby reducing the amount of time you’re standing around. And if you’ve earned elite status on that airline, you simply board upon arrival to the gate using your dedicated boarding lane.
Once in the air, use the GoGo In-Flight WiFi. You can keep up with social media, email and text messaging for free if you’re a T-Mobile customer or this service is available for purchase as well. For all customers, “free texting” is now offered by most carriers in-flight as well. Flying no longer needs to be isolating while you wait to land!
Use some or all of these tips (all recommended) to improve your next visit to the airport and start your vacation mode before arriving at your final destination!