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SEA Celebrates 75 Years of Service Ahead of Expected Record Year

Posted on July 9, 2024

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) celebrates its 75th Anniversary today, ahead of what’s expected to be a record-breaking year. Over 52 million passengers are projected to go through SEA this year, breaking 2019’s all-time high. Of course, that’s a dramatic difference from 75 years ago, when the first recorded year saw just over 130,000 passengers go through a brand-new airport. Today’s lucky travelers will be greeted with special pop-up displays and surprises throughout the terminal in honor of the big day. SEA has been sharing historical moments and milestones all year to commemorate its diamond anniversary.

“Compared to the 30,000 people who attended the airport’s opening day ceremony in 1949, SEA now serves an average of 140,000 passengers a day,” said Port of Seattle Commission Vice President Toshiko Hasegawa. “SEA plays an important role in our region, as it is the primary airport serving the international travel needs of our communities. As it continues to evolve to meet the public’s needs, we are excited to celebrate this milestone for travel and a globally connected community.”

Then and now numbers

  • The original 1949 terminal had 8 gates. Today SEA has 89 gates.
  • A total of 130,549 passengers went through the airport in the first calendar year of operations in 1948. Today, SEA averages 140,000 passengers per day!
  • SEA broke the one million passenger mark in 1954. In 2023, 50.8 million passengers went through SEA, and 2024 is expected to be the largest year ever, breaking the 2019 record of 51.8 million passengers.
  • The first foreign overseas airline to operate at SEA was Japan Airlines in 1959. Today, there are 51 nonstop international services to 33 destinations on 25 airlines.

More ways to celebrate

Anniversary activities stretch beyond today’s official birthday. In partnership with The Museum of Flight, SEA will host a short film screening and panel discussion about the history and legacy of the airport on Saturday, July 13, at 2 p.m. The following Saturday, on July 20, the SEA will have a presence at the Olde Burien Block Party in partnership with the Highline Heritage Museum and Discover Burien from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Passengers can also participate in the 75th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt happening now through the end of August. The hunt features some of the most beloved airport locations throughout the terminal.

Outside of events, SEA launched Elevated: 75 Years of Service at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, an eight-part docuseries exploring various airport stories. The short films will be released over the coming weeks and can be found on the Port of Seattle’s YouTube channel.

The Port has also worked alongside University of Washington Press and HistoryLink to release a second edition of Rising Tides and Tailwinds: The Story of the Port of Seattle, now available online.

About Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Operated by the Port of Seattle, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) serves the people of the Pacific Northwest with essential services, access to hundreds of domestic and global destinations, and economic activity that supports tens of thousands of jobs and produces $22 billion in economic activity. SEA has earned the highest U.S. ranking in Skytrax’s World’s Top 100 Airports for the third year in a row, two consecutive years as Best Airport in North America (2022/2023), and a 4-Star Skytrax Rating, focused on customer-centered travel with better services, facilities, and amenities. SEA totaled over 50.8 million passengers in 2023 — down just 1.8% from 2019 — with a forecast to exceed pre-pandemic traveler volumes in 2024. Thirty-five airlines serve 93 nonstop domestic and 33 international destinations including Canada, Mexico, and seasonal operations.

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