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Port Vote Starts Work On Better International Arrivals

A jet takes off from Sea-Tac airport.
Flickr Photo/Alan Turkus (CC BY 2.0)
Takeoff at Sea-Tac airport.

International travel from Sea-Tac Airport is expected to grow by a quarter over the next five years. So the Port of Seattle is getting serious about expanding facilities for international passengers.

You’d think airlines would be happy about that, but many of them went to the Port Commission meeting Tuesday to protest. 

“The facilities are extremely poor, congested, and give a very poor first impression of the city of Seattle to overseas visitors,” Tom Sykes of British Airways said about the sides of Sea-Tac international passengers see.

Sykes was speaking on behalf of the foreign airlines. He told commissioners the new international arrivals area will only benefit one airline. That’s Delta, which is expanding international service from Sea-Tac and whose passengers would get to use the new facilities.

But all the airlines would eat the airport improvement fees to pay for it – including Delta’s rival, Alaska Airlines.

Joseph Sprague, senior vice president of Alaska, asked the commission for a full review of the project.

“It can include all the airlines equally with an objective to reach a consensus,” he said.

Which is exactly what happened: Commissioner Tom Albro moved for a full project review, and Commissioner Stephanie Bowman said everything was open for discussion.

"The only reason I support this motion is so that we can issue bonds," Bowman said before the motion was approved.

The project is a long way off -- we won’t even know how much it will cost for another two years. But the most recent estimate from the port is $608 million.