Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

A trip to the airport in the new normal

Missing airports? Us too.

That’s why we masked up and spent a few hours at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) last week to see what’s new – and what’s not.

And to gauge whether or not we’re ready to fly.

(Spoiler alert: we’re not.)

First, a disclaimer. We went to the airport with a long list of photos to take, features and amenities to check up on, and favorite views and pieces of art to visit.

We’ve been isolating at home and in our neighborhood, so the crowds (yes, crowds) at the airport last Friday afternoon were a surprise. So were all people who were mask-less and oblivious to social-distancing despite clear signage and perfectly understandable overhead announcements. And, well, the state of the world.

So while we are pleased to see all the protocols and precautions the airport has tried to put in place, we cut the visit short.

But here are some notes on what we found in our hometown airport.

Courtesy SEA Airport

As expected, we saw lots of signs reminding people not to flock together and to put on their masks.

We noted too that there are new overhead announcements. Instead of local music celebrities and airport officials welcoming us to the airport, there are reminders of health-related protocols. Including a request to stand in the middle of the step when on an escalator.

There are now vending machines filled with personal protection items you may need on your trip.

We had meant to do some shopping at the airport in some of our favorite stores. Because – stores! But while we were glad to see Ex Officio is open in its new spot and Fireworks Gallery has friendly minders posted at both the entrance and the exit of the gift shop, we moved along to our scheduled appointments.

Cool new bathroom feature

We admit it. It was this new bathroom feature that really lured us out of the comfort zone of our home and past airport security.

Although we almost turned back once we saw how bunched up and pre-COVID disorganized things were around the screening machines.

Some other airports around the country already have Tooshlights installed in some restrooms.

But Seattle-Tacoma International Airport just got their first set.

As you can see from the photo, this invention lets you know if a restroom stall is open or not. Before COVID, it was appealing because it eliminates that awkward touching of all the doors or peeking under them to find an empty stall.

Now, the fact that you don’t have to touch doors and can easily see what’s open means less time spent in an enclosed space. There’s a bonus service here too: the locks collect information on how often each door opens and closes, so cleaning cycles can be lined up with use.

A new African-themed menu at the Africa Lounge

Courtesy SEA Airport

We made two other stops in the airport.

One was at the Africa Lounge on Concourse A. The taproom has been here since about 2005 and is a visual oasis in the busy concourse as well as a nice place to get cocktails and American fare.

Now there’s a new reason to stop by.

The Africa Lounge now has African food and drinks on the menu, including sambusas, which are Central African fried pastries filled with spicy beef or vegetables. The sides include fried plantains with tangy sauces and jollof rice, which is a West African staple made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices.

The Africa Lounge is also featuring a nice selection of South African wines, a handful of African-inspired cocktails, Ethiopian coffee, and an African music playlist.

Courtesy SEA Airport

The CLUB at SEA

We hope to go back and re-visit all the club lounges at SEA airport. But on this trip, we stopped into the South Satellite branch of The CLUB at SEA to see what’s new and different.

In addition to plastic partitions at the entry and touchless document reviews, the lounge is operating at half-capacity, with many seats blocked off. Even the coveted window bar has seating restrictions.

Cocktails are still being served at the cocktail window, but “nothing that needs to be shaken or stirred, such as margaritas,” said general manager Karen Law, “and no olives in martinis for now.”

Newspapers and magazines are gone too. Now guests can scan and upload a wide variety of papers and magazines to phone or laptops in many more languages than before.

Serve-yourself food is also out, for now, so staff members stand ready to hand guests pre-plated food and soft drinks from the fridge.

National Book Lovers Day

Nashville once had a supermarket library branch

Book lovers everywhere celebrate National Book Lovers Day on August 9.

Traveling and books go together. And one element of travel we’re missing is the pleasure of buying a book at the airport and reading it cover to cover on a long flight.

Although some may be closed temporarily due to health concerns, there are full-fledged bookstores we seek out at airports.

Sometimes we make sure to arrive early or book long layovers to make sure we have time to browse.

We’re fond of the great reads discovered in San Francisco International Airport at Compass Books and at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at the still-new branch of the Elliot Bay Book Company.

And we hoping for a return visit to Renaissance Books at Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport (MKE), among others.

But, sadly, some airport bookstores may not reopen after the pandemic.

Already Powell’s Books is permanently shuttering both its kiosk and bookstore at Portland International Airport (PDX) after a 30-year run.

But we’re confident travelers will still be able to find something great to read in airport bookshops for flights in the future.

So, to mark National Book Lovers Day today, we’re imagining a visit to Nashville International Airport (BNA) in the days when it was home to both a library and a reading room.

Do you have a favorite airport bookstore or book swap? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Signs of the times: cool social distance signs at airports

Signs and floor stickers reminding travelers to keep their distance in airport terminals are necessary right now.

We get that.

But at least some airports are giving their signs some local character.

In the sign above, you’ll see that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is using Chinook salmon as a measuring tool. The airport has also enlisted the help of a moose and a Bald Eagle

These are animals locals will listen to.



Harrisburg International Airport (MDT), which is nearby Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, uses Kisses chocolates as their measuring tool.

We’re curious about how they figured out that 72 Kisses chocolates equals six feet and hope whomever was asked to lay the candies out to figure this out got to eat them.

Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) has a long-running thing for plastic pink flamingos. So it makes sense that a flamingo pops up in the airport’s social distancing signs.

In Chicago, they use these cute floor stickers at O’Hare and Midway Airports to remind people to keep their distance.

And at San Diego International Airport (SAN) it makes sense that the measuring stick is a surfboard. Passengers are urged to stay at least one surfboard apart.

We’ll keep adding to this collection of creative airport social distance signs and stickers as new ones arrive.

If you see a one in your travels that you think fits, please snap a photo and send it along.

SEA: 5 Things We Love About Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) celebrated a birthday on July 9, so this is a good week to feature SEA in our “5 Things We Love About…” series celebrating features and amenities at airports around the country and the world.

Keep in mind that some amenities may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.

If we miss something you love about Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), leave a note in the comments section.

And be sure to take a look at the other airports in the “5 Things We Love About…” series.

Opening Day ceremonies at SEA – July 9, 1949

SEA: 5 Things We Love About Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

1. The Art at SEA

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was the first airport in the country to have a public art program and it began purchasing art back in 1972.

SEA’s art collection includes valuable pieces by well-known 20th-century artists such as Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Nevelson.

Night Flight #1 – By Louise Nevelson

There are also treasured pieces in glass, sculpture, photography, painting and sound by Northwest and regional artists.

Richard Elliot’s Eyes on the World

2. The Shops at SEA

If it’s Northwest souvenirs you’re after, leave time to shop at SEA.

In addition to Northwest wines, chocolates and music, for some reason one of the most popular souvenirs at SEA is (still) these Sleepless in Seattle nightshirts.

3. Dining at SEA

SEA has more than 40 post-security dining venues, so finding something that fits your taste won’t be a problem.

Some of favorites spots include the hip vegetarian Floret, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and Lucky Louie Fish Shack, home of sweet waffle fish.

4. Live Music at SEA

SEA has a live music program that brings in top-notch performers to play everything from jazz and blues, classical, folk and acoustic pop in various parts of the airport throughout the day.

5. The special events at SEA

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport goes all out to celebrate holidays and special days.

Dancing snowmen and live reindeers show up around Christmas.

And the airport hosts celebrations for everything from the Luna Year to Dia de Los Muertos and North American Heritage Month.

Did we miss an amenity you love at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)? The mountain views, the CPR training machine or the fun kids’ play area? Let us know in the comments section below and feel free to suggest an airport you’d like to see featured in the “5 Things We Love About…” series.

Sea-Tac Airport plans passenger temperature checks

The aviation industry, government agencies, and technology companies are scrambling to find a way to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic so that travelers will be safe in airports and in the sky.

Already, masks, hand sanitizing stations, and hyper-vigilant cleaning protocols have become standard.

And now temperature checks are being added to the list.

Airports, airlines and industry organizations are discussing how to make this happen on a national level.

But the Port of Seattle Commission doesn’t want to wait.

On Wednesday the commission told its staff to work up a plan, by June 9, for rolling out temperature screenings at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

The priority will be on screening arriving international passengers. And with this directive, SEA believes it is the first large U.S. airport to begin working on a formal plan for temperature checks and health screening.

Port of Seattle commissioners acknowledge that with temperature screening will come questions. Mostly about passenger privacy and the fact that temperature checks won’t catch even a majority of virus carriers.

“No single measure is sufficient to slow the spread of coronavirus, and each comes with additional costs and inconvenience. However, given the gravity of the virus, and the impact it has had on our region’s well-being, the benefits of these measures outweigh the costs,” Port of Seattle commissioners said in a statement.