The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), also called Sea-Tac, is the eighth busiest airport in the US by passenger traffic. It saw over 50 million passengers in 2019 and is considered one of the fastest growing airports in the country. It’s a primary hub for Alaska Airlines as well, which is all to say that this is a pretty important airport.
It also means major earning potential for rideshare drivers in the Seattle Area.
Sea-Tac Airport allows Uber and Lyft vehicles at the pick-up and drop-off terminals, but before heading that way, there are a few rules you’ll want to know. To maximize earnings (and avoid a ticket), it’s important to understand how to navigate the airport, join the queue, and legitimize your vehicle.
To help rideshare drivers be successful at the Sea-Tac Airport, we put together this blog post to serve as a guide. The following topics are covered:
- What should you do before arriving?
- Do you need any permits to drive there?
- Where is the rideshare waiting area?
- What are the passenger pick-up rules?
- What are the passenger drop-off rules?
- When is the best time to drive at the airport?
- What is the best driving strategy?
Let’s dive in!
What should you do before arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and entering the airport queue?
To pick up passengers at SEA, you’ll need your trade dress, which (as you know) is the Lyft or Uber decal that goes on the lower passenger-side windshield of your car.
Uber sends out this decal when drivers sign up. If you’ve lost yours since then, there are a few easy ways to replace it. You can request that a new one be mailed to you, pick one up at your local Greenlight Hub (be wary of recent closures), or print out a temporary version at home.
You’ll also need your FHP ID (For-Hire Permit Identification) Card. You can apply for that here on the King County site. Your TNC vehicle decal comes with this card, and this has to be placed inside the windshield behind your rearview mirror.
One last thing– the Port of Seattle will only allow vehicles to pick up at Sea-Tac if they have a blended MPG rating of 40 or higher for Lyft and 45 or higher for Uber. You can check your MPG here. If your MPG is lower than 40, you’ll have to leave the staging lot and won’t be entered into the queue– but you will be able to drive through the Re-match program. (Stay tuned for an explanation of Rematch).
Where is the Uber/Lyft waiting area?
If you drive for Uber, the waiting area is located at 2902 S. 171st Street SeaTac, WA 98188. You can also use the lot located at 3037 S 160th Street. These lots are where you’ll head when you first arrive at the airport.
The Ground Transportation Lot for Lyft drivers is located at 1069 S. 160th Street, SeaTac, Washington 98188.
Once you get to your staging lot, you’ll automatically be entered into the airport queue. You’ll be able to check your place in line in the Lyft or Uber app. Unfortunately, if the lot is full you’ll have to leave the airport.
How should Uber and Lyft drivers pick up passengers?
The driver who has been waiting the longest in the staging area gets the next rider request as part of the TNC’s “FIFO” (first-in-first-out) technology. Make sure not to enter out of driver mode while you wait or you’ll lose your spot in line.
Once you get a ride, a pin will be placed at the pick-up spot for you to meet your rider. Follow the signs for Arrivals, then keep left for the “Ground Transportation- Authorized Vehicles Only” area to pick up passengers in the parking garage.
This will be on the 3rd floor of the garage at Row I. Do not pick up passengers at the curbside terminal entrance, and note that you are only permitted to wait 15 minutes in the parking lot for your passenger.
It can get tricky, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your passenger to confirm where they are.
How should Uber and Lyft drivers drop off passengers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport?
Luckily, dropping off passengers at SEA is a lot easier than picking them up. Just head to the upper departures level and drop your passenger off curbside at the terminal of their choice.
At this point you’ll be eligible for Rematch. Rematch means you can receive a pickup request up to 1 minute after dropping off a passenger– and you won’t have to go back to the staging lot.
If you are Rematched, proceed through the far-right lane under “Terminal Direct Parking” past the “STOP” sign, proceed up the helix to the third floor, and find the App Based Rideshare pickup area in Sections G-J. You will not have to meet any MPG requirements for Rematch.
If you aren’t Rematched, either head to the staging lot or to the open road.
When is the best time to drive at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport?
Turn to your Gridwise app for information about all arrivals and departures at SEA, as well as delays and cancellations.
Typically, midday is the best time for airport driving; most passenger arrivals and departures occur sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
With Gridwise Plus you’ll be able to see airport data 24 hours in advance, so you can lock in a solid airport strategy the night before you head out. You’ll also be able to turn on custom alerts, maximizing your earnings by staying ahead of Arrivals and Departures.
What are some good airport strategies?
Follow the rules
SEA has some safety requirements for drivers, including keeping your headlights on at all times, staying under 10 mph, stopping at crosswalks, and not stopping at thru lanes. Uber and Lyft won’t pay your fine if you get one, so stay diligent about following the rules and listening to SEA’s airport staff.
Pick up a passenger on the way to the airport
Count on Gridwise to let you know when there’s a peak in airport departures, so you can hang around near hotels at that time to maximize your chances of an airport ride.
Do not cancel on a passenger after you’ve accepted a fare
If you do, you will be bumped to the bottom of the queue and your wait starts all over again. The good news is that if it’s a short ride, some companies let you jump back in line after you’ve dropped the passenger off.
Be ready to present your waybill and keep your app updated
A waybill is essentially a receipt of the last trip you completed. Be prepared to present this to airport officials or law enforcement while waiting for arrivals. Keeping your app updated is the best way to take advantage of programs like Rematch that can mean bigger earnings.
Always be prepared
The fact is, you never know when law enforcement will show up. Keep your driver’s license, insurance card, and registration handy– in addition to your trade dress, TNC vehicle decal, and FHP ID Card. Just in case.
Congrats! Now you’re all set to make some pick-ups and drop-offs at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport—and maybe take a trip up the Space Needle in between.