Nonstop flying time from New York to Seattle is approximately 5 hours; flights from Chicago are about 4–4½ hours; flights between Los Angeles and Seattle take 2½ hours; flights between London and Seattle are about 9½ hours; flights from Hong Kong are 13 hours.
Seattle is a hub for regional air service, as well as air service to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and Iceland. It's also a convenient North American gateway for flights originating in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. Nonstop flights between Seattle and Europe are available, though most transatlantic service involves a connection in Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; New York; or Washington, D.C. Several nonstop flights to Asia are offered.
Airlines and Airports
AirlineandAirportLinks.com. Here you'll find links to many of the world's airlines and airports. www.airlineandairportlinks.com.
Airline Security Issues
Transportation Security Administration. Transportation Security Administration has answers for almost every question that might come up, as well as info on the latest safety regulations. If you're a frequent flier, consider applying for TSA Precheck, a separate and typically much faster security screening point. A fee of $85 covers five years and is a small price to pay for avoiding long lines. Bonus: You don't have to deal with removing shoes or a laptop when you're screened. 866/289–9673; www.tsa.gov.
The major gateway is Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA), known locally as Sea-Tac. The airport is south of the city and reasonably close to it—non-rush-hour trips to Downtown sometimes take less than a half hour. Sea-Tac is a midsize, modern airport that is usually pleasant to navigate. Our only complaint: inexplicably long waits for some airlines at the baggage claim, especially at night when they seem to send all flights to one or two carousels. Over the next 20 years, the number of passengers traveling through Sea-Tac is expected to almost double to 66 million annually. The airport has a major $600 million expansion planned, though it's unclear how long it will take.
While the present Sea-Tac doesn’t offer a particularly impressive array of shops and restaurants, there are enough sit-down cafés, fast-food joints, and quirky shops to keep you entertained between flights. Comfort-food lovers should proceed directly to Beecher’s for their world-famous mac and cheese. Sub Pop, the iconic Seattle music label that helped launch Nirvana, has a shop stocked with albums from bands on its roster. And for longer layovers, stop into Butter London for a manicure or the Massage Bar for a quick, no-appointment-necessary back or foot massage. Charter flights and small carriers, such as Kenmore Air, that operate shuttle flights between the cities of the Pacific Northwest land at Boeing Field, which is between Sea-Tac and Seattle.
Boeing Field. 206/296–7380; www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/Airport.aspx.
Seattle–Tacoma International Airport. 206/787–5388; www.portseattle.org/seatac.
Sea-Tac is about 15 miles south of Downtown on I–5 (from the airport, follow the signs to I–5 North, then take the Seneca Street Exit for Downtown). Although it can take as little as 30 minutes to ride between Downtown and the airport, if you're traveling during rush hour, it's best to allow at least an hour for the trip in case of heavy traffic; it tends to bottleneck as the freeway narrows through Downtown.
Metered cabs cost around $45 (not including tip) between the airport and Downtown, though some taxi companies offer a $40 flat rate to Sea-Tac from select Downtown hotels. Expect to pay $50–$65 to Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, or the neighborhoods directly north of the canal. Seattle has a small cab fleet, so expect long waits if a lot of flights arrive at the same time, especially late at night. Another option is using Uber (www.uber.com) or Lyft (www.lyft.com). In 2016, both app-based services got the official green light to operate at Sea-Tac as part of a pilot program through the Port of Seattle.
Shuttle Express is the go-to company for scheduled, hourly runs between the airport and Seattle hotels. It’s also the only 24-hour door-to-door shared van service. Fares to and from partner hotels start at $19 one way, with additional adults costing $8 per person. Children under 17 are free with a paying adult. Rates to other locations and during nonscheduled times vary depending on destination, number of people in your party, and how many bags you have, but a one-way trip to the Downtown hotel area for one adult with two bags is around $33. You can make arrangements at the Shuttle Express counter upon arrival or make advance reservations online or by phone. For trips to the airport, reservations are required and should be made at least 24 hours in advance. A number of companies offer town car, SUV, and limo service to and from the airport. Use any of the traveler-information boards in the baggage-claim level of the airport to arrange for pickup. Your least expensive transportation option is also probably the best: Sound Transit's Link light-rail, connected to the fourth floor of the airport parking garage, will take you right to Downtown in 36 minutes for just $3 (children under six are free, youth fare up to 18 years old is $1.50; the $1 fare for seniors/disabled requires a permit). You can’t purchase tickets on the train, so be sure and buy your ticket at one of the ticket kiosks on the train platform before you board—the machines accept cash, VISA, or MasterCard. Trains depart every 6 or 15 minutes, depending on the time of day, and run from 5 am to 1 am Monday through Saturday and 6 am to midnight on Sunday. If you don't have a lot of luggage, this is a fantastic option for reaching Downtown cheaply. Take the covered walkway from the airport to the garage, then head up one floor to the fourth floor to find the Link light-rail station—be aware that this walk is a bit of a hike. If you have limited mobility, you might want to use another mode of transport. Once you arrive in Downtown Seattle, and if you're feeling adventurous, you can catch a bus from Westlake Center to other areas of the city, or hop back on the Link light-rail and continue on to Capitol Hill or the University of Washington. Metro Transit's website has a great trip planner that provides door-to-door itineraries, explaining any connections you may have to make if you're not staying Downtown; representatives can also help you plan your trip over the phone. Various other shuttle services exist to take passengers directly to surrounding towns and even out to places like the islands or Mt. Rainier. Check out Sea-Tac's website for a list of special shuttles and buses.
Metro Transit. 206/553–3000; metro.kingcounty.gov.
Shuttle Express. 425/981–7000; www.shuttleexpress.com.
Sound Transit. 888/889–6368; 206/398–5000; www.soundtransit.org.
American, Delta, and United are among the many major domestic airlines that fly to Seattle from multiple locations. Alaska Airlines and its affiliate Horizon Air provide service from many states, including Alaska and Hawaii.
USAirways has flights from Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Phoenix and connecting routes from most major U.S. cities. Frontier Airlines has direct flights from Denver to Seattle. JetBlue has nonstop service to Seattle from New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. Hawaiian Airlines flies daily from points in Hawaii. Southwest Airlines has direct flights from many cities around the United States, including Las Vegas, St. Louis, Oakland, and Baltimore. Air Canada flies between Seattle and Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. Kenmore Air has scheduled and chartered floatplane flights from Seattle's Lake Union and Lake Washington to the San Juan Islands, Victoria, and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Delta Airlines, which has major expansion plans for its Sea-Tac hub, offers nonstop flights to Asia and Europe.