Alaska Airlines opens new lounge, part of Sea-Tac’s North Satellite Modernization Project
by Kristina Karisch
Reporter, Westside Seattle
Officials from Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle on Thursday announced the completion of the first phase of the North Satellite Modernization Project at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which will bring more gates and dining options to passengers.
The 200,000 square-foot expansion firmly places the airport “in the 21st century,” said Lance Lyttle, Sea-Tac’s managing director. He said the airport expects over 50 million passengers in 2019, about 70 percent of whom start or end their journeys in Seattle. The $658.3 million project includes eight new gates, expanded dining and retail options and a new Alaska Airlines Lounge for frequent fliers. It is the airline’s third lounge in Sea-Tac, and Alaska is the only airline that services the newly opened gates. The 15,800 square foot lounge will officially open to the public on July 12.
The lounge, which sits on the second floor of the North Satellite building, features space for relaxing, as well as a selection of food and drinks — including local baked goods and beer from Fremont Brewing Company, which created a special IPA for the lounge. Alaska Airlines president and COO Ben Minicucci said the airline’s mission is rooted in customer service, and a dedication to Seattle, its headquarters.
Following the opening, all operations in the North Satellite will transition to the newly-renovated section at the end of July and the remaining original gates will close for renovation over the next two years. Full renovation of the existing North Satellite will be complete in mid-2021 and yield 20 total gates. The project features sustainable construction practices and building operations, including LED lighting, efficient heating and cooling systems, as well as a rainwater capture system to supply restrooms. A nursing suite is set to open in August.
New seating with charging ports and dining options close to the gates are meant to make travel more enjoyable for passengers, Lyttle said.
"The older you get in this business, the more you realize it's really about people,” said Andrew Harrison, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Alaska Airlines. “It's about it's the moms and the dads, the sisters and the brothers, and the husbands and the wives, and spouses and colleagues. It’s everyone's personal story walking through this building.”
Port of Seattle Commission president Stephanie Bowman emphasized the project’s focus on local businesses and workers — over 15 percent of the businesses in the North Satellite are small businesses, or women- or minority-owned, and 21 percent of the labor hours for the modernization were completed by apprentices.
Other parts of the NSAT Modernization include the refurbished satellite baggage systems that service the North Satellite, which were completed in 2015, and the Concourse C Satellite Train Access Upgrade, which is set to be finalized in late November.
Funding for the project will come from a combination of airline fees and Airport Development Fund and Passenger Facility Charge revenues, no Port of Seattle taxes are used. The Port’s portion of the North Satellite Renovation is $658.3 million, and Alaska Airlines is shouldering $41 million in costs for the lounge and employee spaces.
State Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44) said as airports are increasingly crucial to many families’ stories and, even more so in an ever-shrinking world, Sea-Tac acts as a gate to Washington.
“This is sometimes the first place that Washington state can show its face and that America can welcome new people coming in,” he said. “While people are building walls, and perhaps maybe fanning the flames of hate, we must always remember here in Washington, that we will welcome everyone.”