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Sea-Tac’s getting an upgrade as Seattle booms. Here’s what to know

Seattle is the fastest growing big city in the country. Many of us feel it during our commutes, whether it’s on long, cramped bus rides or sitting in our cars in rage-inducing traffic. As schools across the region let out for spring break this week, there’s another place we might notice it: at the airport.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the ninth busiest airport in the U.S. In 2017, nearly 47 million people caught flights in and out of it – that’s up 41 percent over the last five years, GeekWire reports. And Sea-Tac says by 2034, there’ll be 66 million passengers coming through the airport each year. 😲

And yet, our airport only spans 4.2 square miles, which is much smaller compared to other international airports like Chicago and Denver, the latter of which covers 53 square miles. In 2016, we even had processed more passengers than Newark’s airport and New York’s JFK.

So if you’re hopping on a plane for spring break, here’s what you need to know…

GETTING TO YOUR GATE FASTER

The airport just brought in more explosives-sniffing security dogs and a schmancy new security screening lane equipped with bigger bins that put themselves away. Security officers are hoping with these changes they can move folks through security faster.

MAKING MORE ROOM IN A SMALL SPACE

To ease congestion, the airport’s expanding the food court, adding eight more gates to its northern satellite terminal (aka the “N” gate), and building a new international arrivals terminal. The airport even opened more places for travelers’ pets to do their business.

AND ABOUT THAT INT’L TERMINAL…

The current international terminal has room for about 1,200 international passengers each hour, but as Seattle’s grown, the terminal needs to make room for about 2,000 passengers an hour, according to an airport spokesperson. So when’s this expansion happening? February 2020, as of now. It’s projected to cost $830 million — about 21 percent more than originally proposed — and it’s running five months behind.

PREVENTING HANGRY PASSENGERS

As of last month, much of the central terminal’s food court closed for renovation to make room for new 50 new food spots, including local faves like Skillet, Sunset Fried Chicken, and Caffé D’arte. Here’s where you can eat in the meantime: Anthony’s, a 24-hour Qdoba, and Floret, a new vegetarian spot.

FOUR WAYS TO MAKE WAITING MORE DELIGHTFUL

Marvel at this cool Pearl Jam poster exhibit, check out the live local music schedule, take a deep breath in the meditation room, or download this app to geek out over airport art.

ONE FINAL TIP

Heading to arrivals or departures during peak hours? If traffic’s a nightmare, try picking up or dropping off from the opposite terminal.

Got any more surprising facts or hacks to take on air travel at Sea-Tac? Let us know here.