SEA-TAC, Wash. – Xiamen Air is the latest carrier to serve Sea-Tac Airport with an international direct route.
Seattle is the first U.S. destination for the airline and has a completely Boeing fleet. The first passengers arrived aboard a 787 Dreamliner Monday morning.
Xiamen flies to its namesake city after a stop in Shenzhen. The once domestic-only carrier is spreading its international wings. It is not alone. Between 2006 and 2016, Sea-Tac added 15 international routes and new airlines, including Emirates, Hainan, Lufthansa, ANA, Asiana, Iceland Air, and added international flights from domestic carriers, such as Delta. In the decade before, just two international routes were added.
All of this continues to put pressure on the airport's 50-year-old south satellite and a small, outdated customs and arrival area in the basement.
"We really can't accommodate any new carriers during peak,” said airport chief Lance Lyttle. "So we're looking at carriers that are flying in the off-peak hours."
Peak international arrivals happens around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Xiamen Air gets in earlier.
Lyttle said the region's expanding economy is driving the growth, as airlines look for a steady stream of passengers and the ability to make a profit on each route.
Many passengers are expected to come from the tech world and fly from the Seattle metro area to the business centers of China. Families are also flying these airlines to connect with relatives back home.
Now the port is scrambling to catch up, and should have a new, bigger international arrivals facility up and running by 2019. That facility will connect the south satellite to the new international arrivals facility with a huge sky bridge to be built east of what is now the A concourse.
The Port of Seattle, which owns and operates the airport, is expected to release animations of the new facility later this week.