Cantwell, Murray Request Federal Engagement in New Sea-Tac International Arrivals Facility

International passenger activity at Sea-Tac doubled in past 10 years; Senators highlight need for sufficient staffing, processes to meet growing demand of international travelers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Patty Murray (D-WA) requested federal engagement to help ensure the successful opening and operation of the new Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) International Arrivals Facility (IAF), which is set to open in the fall of next year. In their letter to Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan of the Department of Homeland Security, the senators requested a detailed strategy to ensure a positive passenger experience at the new facility. 

“The efficient and timely processing of international passenger arrivals will be critical to the success of the new IAF,” the senators wrote. “For many visitors and business travelers, their arrivals experience at Sea-Tac sets the tone for their time in the United States. Long waits on the plane, in the corridor getting off the plane, and in line at customs will not provide the kind of world-class customer experience or welcoming tone that Sea-Tac strives to provide.” 

Driven by economic growth in the Puget Sound region and a significant increase in direct international service, international passenger activity requiring customs clearance at Sea-Tac has more than doubled in the past 10 years. The current inspection area is outdated, cramped, and contributes to significant delays in international passenger processing – seeing peak levels of well over 2,000 passengers in a space designed for only 1,200 per hour. 

To address this growing demand, Sea-Tac is currently constructing a new, world-class facility that will not only meet current and future needs, but also serve as a model for other such facilities at airports throughout the country. 

“At currently projected staffing levels with these new procedures in place, current modeling by Sea-Tac shows that wait times will be two-to-three times as long as their goal for passenger processing,” the senators continued. “We therefore request that you provide us with a detailed strategy to ensure reasonable passenger processing times at the IAF.” 

The new International Arrivals Facility is on schedule to open in the third quarter of 2020. It will include a 450,000 square foot grand hall for baggage claim and customs processing, an aerial walkway to connect passengers from the South Satellite to the grand hall, and a new corridor connecting arriving international passengers on Concourse A. 

Full text of the letter is available HERE.