Luxe Layovers: SEA
Remember the days when the thought of an airport layover brought shudders and a sense of dread? Today’s airports are breaking out of that mold — and breaking all the old rules — to offer bespoke services to modern travelers. From luxury lounges, modern spas and art museums, to wine bars, gourmet restaurants and markets filled with fresh produce, airports around the world are revolutionizing the travel experience. Discover a new place each month for your next luxe layover.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA-TAC): SEA
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, commonly called Sea-Tac and officially designated SEA, is operated by the Port of Seattle. Sea-Tac was created following the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor when the Civilian Aviation Authority asked for someone to step forward and develop a regional airport. The Port of Seattle stepped forward and the first runway was completed in 1944, civilian operations began in 1946 and the terminal opened in July 1949.
Today, 24 airlines serve 76 non-stop domestic destinations (top destinations include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Anchorage and Spokane) along with 19 international cities, including destinations in Canada, Mexico, Dubai, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and locations throughout Europe. Nearly 35 million passengers fly through Sea-Tac every year, making it the 15th largest airport in the US.
The Airport Layout
Getting around Sea-Tac is relatively easy. There is one main terminal building containing the A, B, C and D concourses. There are two satellite buildings, North (with the N gates) and South (with the S gates). You can connect between the North and South stations via a train and there is also a North Train Loop and South Train Loop for those passengers arriving/departing from the satellites but transferring to the main terminal. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the terminals at Sea-Tac.
If you have extra layover time, you might want to head into Seattle. There are several options available. You can head to the third floor of the parking garage to grab a courtesy shuttle to a nearby hotel (pickup is at Islands 1 and 3), grab a taxi on the third floor of the parking garage at the clearly marked taxi stands, or head for the Link Light Rail.
The SeaTac/Airport Station of the light rail is on the fourth floor of the parking garage. There is a covered walkway from the airport to the light rail. After baggage claim, head up to the Skybridge and cross to the parking garage. From there, follow the signs through the terminal, across a bridge and then head up one level to the train platform. The trains depart every seven to fifteen minutes for downtown Seattle and the trip takes about 35 minutes.
If you’ve opted for biking during your time in Seattle, there is a handy assembly station with all the tools you’ll need and a bike pump in baggage claim between carousels 12 and 13.
If you want to rent a car during your time in Seattle, all rental cars operate out of a separate 24-hour facility. Once you’ve collected your baggage, exit the sliding glass doors in baggage claim near carousels 1 or 15 and walk to either of the two designated shuttle bus pickup areas.
Airport Clubs and Lounges
There are lounges at Sea-Tac are open to all passengers for a daily rate of $50. In each lounge, you get free Wi-Fi, bar service and snacks along with comfortable seating. You can even purchase meals at restaurants in the terminal and take them to the lounges, something unique for most airport lounges. There are two of these lounges available to passengers:
- Club International is next to gate S9 (in the South building) and is open 9:30 am to 5:30 pm daily. There is complimentary bar service, free hot soups and snacks and views of the runways and the Olympic Mountains.
- Club Cascade is across from Gate A11 and is open 9:30 am to 2:30 pm daily. This lounge also has complimentary bar service, free hot soup and snacks and free Wi-Fi. There is also a conference room available at this lounge. You can get great views of the Cascade Mountains and Mount Rainier.
In addition to these independent lounges, there are several airline lounges, each open to those flying first class on the airline, certain frequent fliers or via a one-day guest pass:
- Alaska Airlines Board Room is currently located near gate D1 just past security. There is complimentary juice, soda, Starbuck’s coffee, beer, wine and cocktails. In addition, you can get free snacks throughout the day, along with Wi-Fi, newspapers, magazines, TVs, and telephones. there are two conference rooms available for use. The day-use fee is $45. There is an additional Alaska Airlines lounge opening in the North Satellite during Summer 2015. The current lounge is open daily from 5 am to 10:30 pm.
- Delta Sky Club is at the rooftop level of the South Satellite building. The lounge has a complimentary bar with snacks, newspapers, magazines, TVs and Wi-Fi. In addition, the Delta Sky Club also has showers available. The day-use fee is $50. The lounge is open daily 5 am to 12:30 am.
- United Club lounge, located across from Gate A9, has a complimentary bar, free Wi-Fi, newspapers, magazines, TVs and a conference room. The day-use fee is $50 and the lounge is open 4:30 am to 11:30 pm daily.
Restaurants & Bars
While you won’t find a huge selection of gourmet restaurants at Sea-Tac, there are some great options and most offer healthy food selections. Some of the favorites include:
- Anthony’s serves premium fish and shellfish specialties including Puget Sound oysters and Alaskan King Salmon; open 5:30 am to 10 pm in the Central Terminal
- Beecher’s Handmade Cheese serves cheese made at Beecher’s locations in either Seattle’s Pike Place or New York city’s Flatiron District; pick up cheese or artisan foods created using Beecher’s cheese, including the famous Mac & Cheese; open 5 am to 9 pm daily in the C Concourse
- Bigfoot Food & Spirits is a local favorite with a bit of a cult following and famed “Bigfoot” themed places; serves local beers and wines and open from 6 am to 11 pm daily in the North building
- Dilettante Chocolates is a Seattle favorite, serving hand-crafted chocolates since 1976; the shop is open 24 hours daily in both the Central Terminal and the North building
- Dungeness Bay Seafood House is another local favorite serving crab cakes, crab bisque, clams, fish and chips and other seafood plates along with a full service bar; open 5 am to 11 pm Sunday through Friday and 5 am to 7 pm on Saturday in the South building
- Mountain Room Bar is a rustic Northwest lounge with fireplace and surround sound; open 8 am to 3:30 pm daily in the A Concourse
- Vino Volo serves wine tasting flights or glasses from a list of 25 to 40 selections, most from Washington and Oregon; guests can also enjoy small plates, cheeses, sandwiches; wines are available by the bottle and you are allowed to take an opened bottle onboard your flight; Vino Volo is open 7 am to 11 pm daily in the Central Terminal
Despite the fact that Sea-Tac is only the 15th largest airport in the US, it offers great shopping, especially for locally crafted artisan items. Some of the best shops to browser during your layover include:
- Body Shop sells an eco-friendly natural body products and offers complimentary mini-makeovers to travelers; open from 6 am to 10 pm in the Central Terminal
- Bose sells the company’s full line of headphones and headsets along with Wave Music Systems and Sound Docks; offers shipping services; open 7 am to 9 pm Monday through Friday and 8 am to 9 pm weekends in the C Concourse
- Discover Puget Sound is an ideal spot to pick up local gifts and artwork; open 5:15 am to 10:30 pm in both the Central Terminal and the North building
- Fireworks started out as a small local Seattle shop and now showcases the artwork of 300 nationally acclaimed artists; open 6 am to 10:30 pm daily in the Central Terminal and North building
- glassbaby is a unique shop offering handblown glass made in Seattle; open 7 am to 7 pm daily in the C Concourse
- Hudson Booksellers is a national bookseller offering a selection of hardcover, paperback and trade books; there are three locations in the A Concourse (at A4, A9 and A11) with hours varying from 4 am to midnight and one location in the C Concourse open 4:15 am to 11:30 pm daily
- Life is Good is a national retailer known for luxury organic clothing and accessories; open 5:30 am to 10:45 pm in the Central Terminal
- Made in Washington is a must-stop shop for visitors to the Northwest, where you can pick up specialty foods, arts, rafts and kitchen items made by local artisans; open from 4:30 am to 11:15 pm in both the North building and the Central Terminal
- Metsker Maps has been a Seattle staple for more than 60 years, selling maps, guidebooks, nautical charts, globes and gifts; open 6 am to 9 pm in the B gates
- Planewear is a fun shop offering vintage-inspired travel items, apparel, luggage tags and bags; open 7 am to 7 pm in the Central Terminal
- Ventures showcases gifts and accessories handcrafted by locals, including jewelry, clothing, body products and gourmet foods; Venture is part of Washington C.A.S.H (Community Alliance for Self-Help), a retail incubator; open 7 am to 7 pm in the Central Terminal
- Wishing Stone features artisan-made jewelry and gifts crafted from stones, shells, wood and plants mixed with silver, stainless, titanium, copper and mixed metals; open 6 am to 10 pm in Central Terminal
For Fun, Relaxation and Pampering
While there are no hotels located inside or even adjacent to Sea-Tac, there are plenty of other ways to pass the time during the layover. There is a quiet “rest zone” located near gate B4 with plenty of quiet seating and power outlets. If you’re looking for some pampering, there are two great options:
- butter London is a nail spa featuring toxin-free nail care products; you can opt for a manicure and/or pedicure or pick up a gift item for yourself or someone special; manicures start at $26; pedicures at $40; there are butter locations in both the C Concourse and the North building; opening hours vary, starting at 6 am Monday through Saturday (7 am on Sunday) and closing between 9 pm and 10 pm
- Massage Bar has two locations that offer both foot massages and chair massages for either 15 or 30 minutes; the 15-minute massage is $21, the 30-minute massage is $39 and the foot massage is $18; the C Concourse location is open 6 am to 10 pm Monday through Friday and 8 am to 9 pm weekends; the North building location is open 6 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday, 9 am to 3:30 pm Saturday and 7 am to 8 pm Sunday
Art and music are an important part of the Seattle culture and are important parts of Sea-Tac as well. The artwork was created over decades, now featuring more than 100 works of 59 artists. the art collection started in 1969 with $300,000 to buy permanent artwork. When concourses B, C and D were expanded in 1990, part of the construction budget went to art. Then, with the opening of Concourse A in 2004 and the expansion of the South terminal, another $1.8 million went to artwork at Sea-Tac.
In Concourse A, be sure to pay attention to the nine mosaic columns created with hand-cut glass and stone. Concourse A also includes some exceptional examples of art glass, including a gorgeous stained glass entitled “I Was Dreaming of Spirit Animals,” by Cappy Thompson.
As you pass through Concourse B, look down to catch the bronze fish in terrazzo by Judith and Daniel Caldwell.
One of the more unique offerings at Sea-Tac are the talking drinking fountains. There are five of these “talking” foundations, by Jim Green, located throughout Concourses B and C. And yes, people will turn and stare when you press the button and begin drinking.
At the end of Concourse D, look up to see the aluminum and dichroic glass boat. Then, look down at the bronze inlays in the floor under the boat. Both the boat and the mosaic on the floor are by artist Larry Kirkland. The main atrium features a classic biplane suspended from the ceiling.
Finally, the Seattle music scene is alive and well at Sea-Tac. Experience the City of Music Program showcases the diverse music culture of the Northwest with live performances every day of the year throughout the terminal.
All of the overhead music you hear as you wander the airport is exclusively from Northwest artists. As you wait in the baggage claim, the monitors display clips of Seattle’s music scene.
The Experience Music Project has created music-themed art exhibits throughout the airport, combining both of the rich Seattle cultures. there is even a shop, Sub Pop Records, that belongs to the independent local record label that represented such popular local-born bands as Nirvana. You can find Sub Pop in the Central terminal.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport embraces the best of the Northwest, including the technology, music and art. Be sure to check out the airport’s website before you leave home for any last-minute changes. Sea-Tac updates its Traveler Updates page on a regular basis to keep you informed of any airport changes.