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Flying out of Sea-Tac this Thanksgiving? Here's what to expect

An estimated 1.5 million travelers are expected to pass through Sea-Tac International Airport during Thanksgiving week.

SEATTLE — What pandemic?

More and more Americans are opting to travel this Thanksgiving, with airport traffic expected to reach near levels that haven't been seen since 2019.

Sea-Tac International Airport estimates 1.5 million travelers will pass through the airport between Thursday, Nov. 18 to Monday, Nov. 29. 

Up to 46,000 departures are estimated at Sea-Tac this weekend alone, with the busiest travel day expected to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, with 50,355 departures estimated out of Sea-Tac that day, according to airport officials.

"It was crowded, but not as crowded as we anticipated. Maybe we beat the rush a little by coming on Saturday," said Annie Wilhelm, who traveled to Seattle from Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with her family.

Wilhelm said it's their first flight since the pandemic began.

Other travelers said they feel more comfortable traveling by air this holiday season despite the pandemic.

"I think after the vaccines have come out and people have been vaccinated, we feel much safer," said Amruta Patankar, who was also traveled to Seattle from Dallas with her family Saturday night.

Security checkpoints are preparing too. The Transportation Security Administration added extra officers this week to accommodate the surge, airport officials said.

Sea-Tac also offers a service called Spot Saver, which lets travelers reserve their security screening in advance, between the hours of 5 a.m. and 1 p.m.

"When you come into the airport, you can either come 15 minutes before or 15 minutes after, and you'll go straight to the security checkpoint without having to join the long lines," said Port of Seattle Airport Managing Director Lance Lyttle during a news conference Wednesday.

Lyttle advised travelers heading to the airport to take the Link Light Rail rather than parking at the airport. Current parking garage construction and a shortage of bus drivers to shuttle passengers are limiting parking options, according to Lyttle.

The TSA is also taking a moment to remind passengers what kinds of food are allowed for carry-on or whether they should be checked-in baggage.

Thanksgiving foods allowed through a TSA checkpoint:

  • Baked goods like pie and cake. 
  • Meats like turkey and ham. Meats can be frozen, cooked, or uncooked. 
  • Stuffing and casseroles, cooked or uncooked. 
  • Fresh produce.
  • Spices and powdered gravy mix.

Thanksgiving foods that should be carefully packed with your checked baggage (if more than 3.4 oz)

  • Cranberry sauce, including homemade and canned versions. 
  • Gravy in jars or cans.
  • Alcohol and soft drinks.
  • Canned fruits or vegetables that contain liquid.
  • Preserves, jams and jellies.
  • Sauces, syrups and soups.
  • Items that can be poured or are spreadable.