International flights at Sea-Tac overwhelming facility

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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SeaTac, Wash. - The International Arrivals facility at Sea-Tac Airport is a crowded mess. Because of airline schedules, at midday as many as 10 widebody jets arrived from overseas between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., overwhelming a facility largely unchanged since it was built in the early 1970s.

 On Tuesday the Port of Seattle Commission approved initial funding for a new arrivals facility, which is expected to cost around $300 million. Airlines will pay for much of the cost, although Commissioner John Creighton says the Port will also seek federal grants and possibly divert concession revenue to help subsidize it.

Arriving on a flight from Dubai, Steve Potter found himself stuck in the airport for 90 minutes, much of it waiting in the line for passport control. "It's not a very good first impression, is it?" Potter said. "I'll fly into Vancouver next time."

International routes make up just one in 10 flights at Sea-Tac, but are growing at twice the rate of domestic flights. On Tuesday, Delta announced new nonstop service to London. It has already expanded service between Seattle and Asia. The port hopes to double the number of international flights from Sea-Tac in the next 25 years.

"The good news is we have great international growth in Seattle. The bad news is the facility we have is really at capacity," said Elizabeth Leavitt, Sea-Tac director of aviation planning. "We have a problem that everybody loves to have."