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First flight arrives at Sea-Tac Airport’s new international terminal

The new terminal nearly doubles the airport's international flight capacity, going from 12 gates to 20.

SEATAC, Wash. — The new international terminal at Sea-Tac Airport opened for business Tuesday after nearly five years of construction.

The new International Arrivals Facility (IAF) welcomed its first flight Tuesday morning, arriving from South Korea, with a water salute on the runway.

According to the Port of Seattle, the new IAF looks to “enhance the international passenger experience” and is the most complex development program for the airport in its nearly 73-year history.

The new terminal helps nearly double the airport’s international flight capacity, expanding it from 12 gates to 20.

The old facility, which was located in the south satellite terminal, could only process about 1,200 passengers per hour, but the IAF more than doubles that, with the ability to process 2,600 passengers every hour.

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The facility, complete with new baggage carousels and windows letting in a ton of natural light, is marked by the 85-foot-high sky bridge to the south satellite. The walkway was built high enough to allow a Boeing 747 beneath it, taking passengers over the ramp with a moving sidewalk, elevators and escalators.

The $986 million IAF was a necessary addition to the airport, which was struggling to keep up with soaring passenger growth before the COVID-19 pandemic. While international traffic was down more than 80% from 2019 to the end of 2020, the airport experienced nine straight years of record passenger growth.

Early 2022 numbers suggest tourism is coming back to the Seattle region, too, with hotel occupancy up 11% from January to February downtown. Through most of March, King County saw an uptick of 56% in hotel occupancy.

Although COVID-19 case numbers have seen a recent uptick in the region and across the U.S., many continue to be optimistic. Sea-Tac Airport even dropped its mask mandate Monday after a federal judge in Florida struck down the federal mask mandate, ruling it exceeded the authority of U.S. health officials during the pandemic.

The mandate was set to expire at the beginning of May after being extended two weeks due to the recent increase in case numbers.

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