It sounds so illicit it's practically pornographic: Checking a suitcase. Boarding a plane. Accepting a glass of champagne from the flight attendant and reclining a window seat for a 13-hour nap, ended only when the plane descends to a new and exciting locale. It may still be months before Americans restart their international tourism, but once we do Seattle travelers have a new destination: Doha, Qatar. And that's not the only foreign spot that will feel closer.
This week Qatar Airlines announced its new nonstop route from Sea-Tac to Hamad International Airport in Doha, the capital of a small Persian Gulf country that sits between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Think a more modest Dubai: Doha's also a city of skyscrapers surrounded by sand, just a bit smaller and with fewer flying Tom Cruises.
Beginning March 15, the flight will mark the seventh new route for the airline since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, Seattle hasn't stayed so connected; the Port reports that our airport is currently running only 16 of the 42 international flights that were regularly running before Covid.
The flight announcement means more than future vacations to man-made islands and a shopping mall constructed to look like Venice, canals and all. The new route is most significant in how it connects Seattle business and leisure travelers to Africa and Asia; this link will make us a single layover away from 13 new cities in India alone. It's reminiscent of when Emirates airline first arrived at Sea-Tac in 2012, hugely increasing Seattle's rep as an international gateway.
It also dovetails with Sea-Tac Airport's new International Arrivals Facility, an almost billion-dollar project that will nearly double the number of gates that can receive international flights. Scheduled to open in 2021, the building will boost the airport's ability to handle baggage and shuffle travelers through passport checks. When Seattle globetrotters finally emerge from our collective couches, dust off our passports, and start traveling internationally again, there won't be quite as stark a contrast between the world's fanciest hubs and our humble home airport.