History[ edit ] The airport was built by the Port of Seattle in after the U. Runway 34L replaced runway 2 around In Scandinavian Airlines began the airport's first non-stop route to mainland Europe Pan Am nonstops to London began around The first concourse opened in July The Port and the government of King County adopted the Sea—Tac Communities Plan in to address problems and guide future development.
In the mids, the airport participated in the airport noise-compatibility program initiated by Congress in Airport-noise contours were developed, real estate was purchased and some homes were retrofitted to achieve noise mitigation.
After the death of U. Denizens of Tacoma interpreted the change as an insult to their community—the second time in the airport's history that the port authorities had attempted to remove "Tacoma" from the name. The controversy was resolved after polls of Seattle and Tacoma area residents indicated their preference for the original name by margins as much as 5: Helen Jackson, the widow of the late Senator Henry M.
Jackson, expressed her desire that their family remain neutral in the debate. The planning committee concluded in that the best solution was to add a third runway to the airport and construct a supplemental two-runway airport in one of the neighboring counties. Members of the community opposed a third runway, as did the Highline School District and the cities of Des Moines , Burien , Federal Way , Tukwila and Normandy Park , but a study concluded there were no feasible sites for an additional airport.
The Port of Seattle approved a plan for the new runway in , prompting a lawsuit from opponents. The Port secured the necessary permits by agreeing to noise reduction programs and environmental protections. Runway opponents appealed these permits, but dropped their challenges in The airport's Central Terminal building was renovated and expanded in in a project designed by Curtis W. Fentress , of Fentress Architects. Citing increased landing fees and other costs due to the work at the airport, Southwest Airlines threatened in to move to nearby Boeing Field.
This plan ran into several problems. Boeing Field is a public airport and each airline would have to have equal access, requiring more capacity than available on the airport's single runway suitable for large airplanes. Major renovations would have been required. While Southwest did indicate willingness to pay for upgrades, there were problems with the transportation infrastructure around Boeing Field, which was not designed to handle traffic in and out of a major passenger airport.
It eventually became clear that Southwest Airlines would not fund the necessary transportation improvements and the plan was rejected by King County Executive Ron Sims. Rainier in the distance In mid, Delta Air Lines announced plans to rapidly expand Seattle into a transpacific hub. Since then, Delta has added numerous flights to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, London and dozens of domestic flights to feed those services.
By December, Delta expected to offer 95 flights to 33 destinations from Seattle. By the third quarter of , Delta hoped to be the airport's largest sole source of revenue. Other analysts speculate that this growth also results from Delta's disenchantment with its Tokyo—Narita hub, citing Japan's diminishing importance in light of the boom in Chinese international travel and the lack of a Japanese partner airline.
Delta's rapid expansion at Seattle—Tacoma International Airport has created some controversy. Many of the new domestic services Delta started offering from Seattle to boost traffic to international flights encroached on routes that Alaska Airlines, previously a long-time partner of Delta, has historically operated. Additionally, Delta is currently seeking a total of 30 gates at Seattle—Tacoma, nearly triple its current 11 gates, to accommodate its planned growth. By , the North Satellite will be expanded by over feet, increasing the terminal's square footage by , feet and increasing the gate count from 12 to Seattle airport spokesman Perry Cooper has also stated that Delta currently plans to operate around flights a day by Cooper speculates that if Delta takes on 30 gates, over flights a day could be operated.
Ultimately, the success of Delta's growth in Seattle relies on the Port of Seattle's decisions regarding further terminal expansions and gate allocation, which is currently assigned to airlines according to a formula that utilizes their number of outbound flights.
The site and construction method of the tower were designed to maximize visibility and efficacy of radar systems. The airport's original control tower, built in the s, is now located in the airport's passenger terminal and used as a ramp control tower, after being repaired from damages caused by the Nisqually earthquake in A recurring problem at the airport is misidentification of the westernmost taxiway, Taxiway Tango, as a runway.
A large "X" has been placed at the north end of the taxiway, but a number of aircraft have landed on the taxiway. In the airport became the first airport to implement an avian radar system providing hour monitoring of wildlife activity across the airfield.
This pilot program, designed and implemented with the assistance of the University of Illinois Center of Excellence for Airport Technology CEAT , was designed to decrease potentially fatal incidents involving collisions with birds and to provide a test bed for implementation of the technology in the US which was expected to begin in The technology is part of a strategy to reduce the presence of wildlife on the airfield.
Central terminal with views of the runways The main terminal building is laid out in an "X" shape, with four concourses, named Concourse A, B, C, and D, forming a different arm. In the middle, where concourses converge, there is the "central terminal," an area with no passenger boarding gates, but several restaurants and retail stores. Once through security, passengers have access to all gates. All international arrivals except flights from cities with customs preclearance are handled at the South Satellite Terminal, regardless of their departure terminal.
The entire airport covers an area of 2, acres or 3.