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Port and Partners support airport employees impacted by severe drop off in travel

SEA Airport cargo laborers unload large pallets of cargo from an Airbridge plane.

SEATTLE – The Port of Seattle is aiming its efforts to prioritize and communicate employee support programs as official March data begin to show the dramatic decline in traffic at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) due to the COVID19 crisis. Passenger traffic was down 56 percent for the month of March, however, air cargo is up nearly four percent reflecting the essential nature of an airport’s role in supporting the economy’s supply chains for products from medical supplies to food and ecommerce.

“This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on communities who w ere already furthest from opportunity,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. “Equitable and inclusive strategies, like transitioning our workforce development programs to safety net outreach and expanding our emphasis on supporting small businesses, ensures that all airport workers and businesses can thrive in a recovery.”

Before the COVID-19 situation, more than 300 business employed more than 19,000 workers at SEA, making the airport one of the largest job sites in King County.

More than two-thirds of the dining and retail tenants at the airport are currently closed. Unofficial data from the first half of April shows passenger travel down as much as 95 percent.

The airport is serving only 2,500 departing passengers per day when we would normally see over 50,000 this time of year.

Official April data will be available in the third week of May.

By the numbers
Total passengers for the month of March through SEA came to 1,824,676 compared to 4,111,729 passengers during March 2019. That is a 55.6 percent decrease in overall passengers. International passenger traffic dropped to 183,528, a decrease of 59 percent, as 321 international departures were cancelled during the month.  This compares to 446,530 international passengers in March 2019.

Air cargo is a lifeline for businesses to maintain revenue, for medical teams that need equipment, and for families looking to replenish supplies.

Overall air cargo was up 0.9 percent in March over the previous year, with air freight (excluding airmail) up 2.4 percent. This was driven primarily by the performance of ecommerce and express air freight such as Amazon, DHL, and FedEx which drove domestic air freight up 16.6 percent.

One challenge for local businesses is the decline in international cargo. International air freight was down 24.1 percent due to the reduction in ‘belly cargo’ from international passenger flight cancellations. International freighter operations remain steady, which carry about 40 percent of international air cargo.

Employee support programs
The Port has partnered with the Fair Work Center and Port Jobs to facilitate webinars, trainings, and information opportunities for impacted tenants and small business partners to understand and take advantage of resources provided by the federal CARES act as well as state and local opportunities. Outreach has included distribution to over 25,000 stakeholders and corporate partners.

CARES Act Assistance for Workers and Port Employees through the Fair Work Center have provided workers with:

  • Informational webinars covering immediate and urgent worker needs including unemployment, sick time, health and safety, and changing implementation and guidelines around emergency assistance;
  • Training materials have gone out over how to get in contact with providers for assistance with unemployment application, rental assistance/emergency assistance, health and safety information, job search assistance and other support;
  • Ongoing webinars and training specific to airport workers, assessing the need of these workers and incorporating requests to add to the trainings. Hundreds of people can be reached at one time in this form, and these webinars include live translation services and;
  • Additional educational materials will be tailored to specific industries and distributed to thousands of workers.

“We are appreciative of the Port’s help to get the word out for our services to provide for those in need in our communities,” said Rachel Lauter, Executive Director, Fair Work Center. “We are a hub for workers to understand their rights at work and connect with community resources, and during this crisis it is critical that airport workers have access to resources and support.”

Port Jobs will provide workers with:

  • SEA Airport job opening information, and other job openings as needed;
  • Basic Food Employment Training (BFET) enrollment and support services for eligible customers;
  • Guidance to apply for unemployment insurance and other online subsidies from the state; and
  • Health plan finder assistance.

“We expect to serve 3,000 clients in the second quarter focusing on assistance with both jobs and resources for laid-off workers,” said Heather Worthley, Port Jobs Executive Director. “Many of our clients need that face to face support to guide them through these difficult times. We are working with the Port to setup protective cubicles in our offices to maintain COVID19 guidelines for our staff and those who come in for assistance.”

Tatiana Rokou

Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (, and Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.