✈️ Airline Travel hacks (from Seattle)

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Swapna M
5 min readNov 5, 2022

Airline travel is never straight-forward, even for the sleek traveler. And even though I love being in transit (suspended somewhere in the world where potentially no-one can reach me, with endless possibilities of faraway lands beckoning me), I’m always tentative whilst stepping away from my home, lest I miss the comforts of my pad a tad too much.

I’ve had quite a few originating airports over the years, prime among them being Billy Bishop in Toronto (smallish airport for a quick gateway inside Canada and to our southern neighbor), Changi International Airport in Singapore (a top choice for soothing greenery and the cheapest duty free) and the erstwhile, Mumbai International Airport (the recently jazzed-up airport right in the middle of the city from where I belong).

Hence, comparatively SeaTac in Seattle is a new airport for me since my move to PNW this year, amid much life-changing decisions. I’m still trying to understand the personality of this new jumping-off point in southern Seattle, which has till date led me to take multiple Delta flights to San Jose, SF, Vancouver and India. I love small cozy quick efficient airports — San Jose is one. For SeaTac, going by the 1+ hour long wait times at the security check a couple of times, I’m not fully convinced of this airport’s affinity to me. But then I thought — I’m making Seattle my home, so let me hack Seattle travel too.

<This article will continuously be updated as I find other hacks for Seattle based airline travel. For train, bus and car travel, stay tuned as I accumulate more credit in the city.>

#1 Employee check-in

For me, this is the first airport in the world where I’d find special check-in counter for corporate employees, specifically Microsoft and Amazon (near Delta counters). How cool is that! Just show your employee badge and get checked-in within minutes. Why won’t I check-in online you ask? Well, I do check-in online without fail, however sometimes airlines restrict it if you’re traveling to a destination that requires a certain visa and you’ve a certain passport. So be it. And if you’re a Starbucks, Boeing, TMobile or Costco employee, well hard luck — urge your companies to partner up with an airline or please write an article detailing how your perks are cooler than mine :)

#2 TSA pre booking

Prebook SEA Spot Saver program — if your TSA PreCheck or GlobalEntry is still pending, avoid standing in fear-inducing queues at the SeaTac airport by pre-booking a TSA spot at-least 3 days in advance at an approximate time you’d want to do your security check on the day of the flight. This program is definitely not well advertised online, and it was by chance that I stumbled upon this after downloading the Seattle FlySEA app.

#3 Red by Dufry

Download and scan Red by Dufry duty-free app to redeem points and get discounts on your Black Labels, Swatches and Toblerones. I came across this when an employee at the Vancouver duty-free store asked me to download this app to instantly avail a 10% discount and accumulate points on future purchases. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?!

#4 Duty free delivered to your gate

Get your duty-free bottles delivered to your gate, so you don’t have to lug them around the airport. I’m not a fan of shopping at the airport, but when friends and family back home want me to purchase alcohol, it’s always a stressor for me to carry those bottles around while handling my heavy carry-on bags. So very recently, the duty-free shops at the airport insist delivering the goodies (have only tried alcohol at this point) to your gate at the time of boarding. They wait for you at the boarding gate and might even give a smile or two, right behind the personnel validating your ticket. So, there you go, another thing to feel less frazzled about.

#5 Be ready at the gate while boarding

This is definitely not Seattle specific (and maybe not even airline travel specific) — be ready at the gate, especially if you’re not part of the medallion cub or belong to a certain “flying frequent flyer” status. If your cabin /zone is middling, wait till the earlier zones have passed by you, and once you notice that the earlier zone is trickling down, join the queue to be the first one from your zone to board. It requires some quick-footedness, ever-alertness, not unlike a rabbit waiting for its mousey prey. But if you’re someone who loves leisurely walks around the airport (like it’s your own backyard), you’ll run the risk of having to check-in your cabin bag/s at the boarding gate due to lack of overhead cabin space (being taken over by those previously mentioned priority boarders).

#6 Free inflight Wifi with T-Mobile

This is a nice to have, but if you’re someone like me who can’t fall asleep and gets restless during a long flight, this is for you. T-Mobile Magenta Max plan is a great value add to your travel. It serves the dual purpose of an international data plan at your destination country and as an inflight internet service provider. True it only works with a couple of airlines currently — Delta, American Airlines etc., so I’ve made a point to catch only Delta flights and rack my points on one airline, and also optimize a credit card that meshes well with Delta (eg. Amex).

#7 Lounges

If you’ve an Amex platinum card, centurion lounges open up for you, but I’m keener on priority pass lounges since they’re more ubiquitous around the world — North America, Europe and Asia. And if you mix and match your airline points, frequent flyer status and credit card benefits, you might get access to dedicated airline lounges (eg. Delta), priority pass lounges, centurion or all three.

#8 Order Food ahead of time for pickup

Through OrderSea, you can order and pick up a meal without having to wait in queue at any of the fast-food joints at SeaTac. If you’ve access to a lounge, you might not care about this, but sometimes this can save you many a minute whilst you try to cramp in a coffee before dashing to your aforementioned flight.

These are my personal hacks at SeaTac, so if you’ve any other productivity recommendations that you find noteworthy, feel free to comment below and enlighten me!