Editor's Note

Preparing for Takeoff

How not to hate an airport.

By James Ross Gardner May 24, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Seattle Met

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Courtesy San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives

Does anyone love an airport? I mean, symbolically, sure, we all do—the promise of a new adventure, the knowledge that, within a few hours, we can erase the space between where we are and where we dream to go. But I’m talking about the place itself: the crowds, the odors, the shoeless and beltless dance TSA forces us to perform before strangers. 

I can tell you this. When ours first opened, the attitude toward airports wasn’t so loathsome.

Check it out. It’s July 9, 1949. A little after 2:30pm. Thirty thousand people have swarmed a massive white building that’s tiered like a wedding cake; a control tower pokes up from its center. Amid the pageantry, bunting, and international flags, as The Seattle Times will note the next day, women are costumed in Hawaiian leis. Other women are costumed in what passes for traditional Asian garb—and others in what passes for traditional Alaskan garb. A shiny new Boeing Stratocruiser, a giant hoagie with wings, looms nearby.

The governor of the state of Washington, Arthur Langlie, rises to the podium, brings his endless forehead and angle-free face to the microphone, and bellows, “Today we become a dynamic world center.” Not to be outdone, U.S. congressman Hugh Mitchell (bespectacled, dark hair coiled like a spring) takes the mic, soaks in the scene, all 920 acres—an $11 million joint venture between the cities of Seattle and Tacoma—and proclaims it “the finest facilities...of any airport in the world.” 

Other than an event with the words Seahawks or Sounders or Bernie attached to it, when was the last time 30,000 locals agreed to show up for anything remotely civic? But they did for the grand opening of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport 67 years ago.

In this month’s cover story (“Secrets of Sea-Tac”), we recapture that glory. After all, there really is a lot to love about our three-runway portal to the outside world—as senior editor (and Seattle Met’s in-house travel expert) Allison Williams illustrates. 

There’s the Sub Pop record store, for one. There are the dining options that render regular airport food—smell ya later Burger King breakfast sandwich—obsolete. There’s local stalwart Alaska Airlines and relative newcomer Delta, vying to be the Seattle airline, on hand to charm us all. Finally Sea-Tac has every incentive to get even better, as its annual 42 million passengers grows to a projected 66 million in the next two decades. 

Finest airport in the world? After nearly 70 years, maybe not yet. But we’re getting there.

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