Holiday air travel nears pre-pandemic levels

SEATTLE — Holiday travel nears pre-pandemic levels, as Omicron-fueled COVID cases continue to surge.

According to AAA, an estimated 53 million Americans will travel for the holiday, that’s up 13% from 2020.

Nationwide, TSA is screening more than 2 million flyers a day. At Seattle Tacoma International Airport, the daily count is over 100,000 and growing.

“There is a pile up with people waiting to get in, definitely, the parking is awful,” said Christine Imper as she dropped her daughter off at the airport.

SEA-TAC said it is currently seeing about 80% to 90%of the travelers they saw in 2019.

“We are getting close to pre-pandemic levels,” said Perry Cooper, a SEA-TAC spokesperson.

“It’s been encouraging for us to see people get back and have that smile on their face when they want to travel,” Cooper continued. “It’s about trying to make that experience a special one for everybody.”

And while the new COVID variant, Omicron, isn’t changing domestic travel yet – it is on the minds of travelers.

“Obviously I do worry about it, but not more than any other sickness at this point,” said frequent flyer Amanda Leczki. “Be as safe as you can, wear your mask, wash your hands.”

“I feel like, you know, the airport is going to take extra precautions just because of how busy it is, so that gives me peace of mind,” said Imper.

SEA said its busiest days are still to come. Travelers can expect the most congestion this Thursday and next Monday – that’s when an estimated 140,000 travelers will come through.

Cooper has some advice to help you avoid some of that congestion.

  • Arrive 2-hours before domestic flights
  • Use ride sharing services/consider alternate transportation
  • Utilize both Arrivals and Departures areas for pick up and drop off
  • Skip the security line with SEA Spot Saver

SEA is believed to be one of the first airports in the country to debut a program like SEA Spot Saver, which allows travelers to skip the general security line by joining a virtual que.

“What [SEA Spot Saver] does is allows people to reserve a spot in the general security checkpoint lane up to 72-hours in advance, and what you’ll do is you’ll get a 15-minute period when you’ll be able to jump in and get to the head of the line,” Cooper explained.

You can learn more about SEA Spot Saver HERE.