It’s time to reach into my mail bag again. This time, I’m going to answer one of the most common questions I’ve been getting recently: is a 1 hour layover enough time in Seattle?
The good news is that 1 hour is indeed enough time for a layover in Seattle (most of the time). As long as you’re connecting from one domestic flight to another domestic flight, you should be fine. However, it gets a little bit more complicated (and sketchy) if you’re making an international connection. I’m going to break it down and try to cover every situation possible…
Table of Contents
OK. Just how realistic is a 1 hour layover in Seattle?
Don’t worry. I still stand by my statement that (most of the time), a 1 hour layover is plenty of time to make a connection in Seattle. However, there are a few scenarios where 1 hour just might not be enough. Most of those scenarios involve making a connection to or from an international flight.
What is the minimum layover for domestic flights in Seattle?
My recommended minimum time to make a domestic to domestic connection at SEA is 45 minutes. Yeah, I’m sure there are superheroes out there who have done it in far less time than that, but as long as you’ve got 45 minutes of padding in your itinerary, you should easily make any connection that doesn’t involve an international flight.
Connection times of 30 minutes or less are possible if your connecting flight is adjacent to the gate that you arrived at. However, even if it’s at the far end of the airport in a completely different concourse, 45 minutes is easily doable as long as you hustle.
What is the minimum layover for international flights in Seattle?
This is where it is complicated. Most international flights in and out of Seattle depart out of the South satellite terminal (see map below). There aren’t many international flights that arrive and depart out of the main terminal (where all the other airlines are).
Connecting TO an international flight
Connecting to an international flight from a domestic flight in Seattle doesn’t take that much longer than making a domestic to domestic connection. There are no extra security checkpoints to go through, and it’s fairly easy to reach the South satellite terminal from the main terminal in a matter of minutes via the connection train (which runs every few minutes).
Connecting FROM an international flight
If you’re connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight in Seattle, plan on an hour and a half. At least. If it were me, I’d want two and a half hours to make sure that I have enough time to deal with any issues.
Although it’s really easy to get from the international terminal to the main terminal, the problem is you’re at the mercy of customs and immigration and how busy it is when you arrive.
If the customs and immigration hall isn’t very busy, you could easily make a 1 hour connection. However, if it’s really busy and the lines are moving slow, it’s going to take an hour and a half at least. My best recommendation for determining how long of a layover you’re going to need in Seattle coming off an international flight is to give yourself as much time as possible when making your reservations.
A brief overview of the terminal layout at Seattle Tacoma International Airport
The first few times I flew in and out of Seattle Tacoma International Airport were confusing. Somehow I always end up arriving at the N gates, which is the North satellite terminal – separate from the main terminal.
It’s a fairly small building compared to the main terminal, and at the time, I didn’t realize that there was a whole other part of the airport. I thought that tiny little terminal was it.
The layout of the Seattle Tacoma International Airport is simple. There’s one main terminal with four separate concourses (A, B, C, and D). Then, there are two satellite terminals (N to the north, and S to the south). The S terminal is the international terminal.
It’s a very simple and efficient design, and it’ll make sense once you’re in there trekking from one flight to another. It’ll make even more sense if you have experience with the Orlando airport.
The terminal layout is awfully similar, and the efficiency of the satellite concourse design is why I always say “you betcha – it’s as easy as having a short layover in Seattle” when people ask me questions such as “can I do a short layover in the Orlando airport?” You’d be shocked how many times I get questions like this…
The reason why short layovers are ok in Seattle
The main reason why 1 hour layovers are OK in Seattle is the same reason why 1 hour layovers are OK in Chicago and Atlanta: there’s no need to re-clear security between all concourses and terminals.
Seattle Tacoma International Airport is big, but highly efficient. There are moving walkways through many parts of the main terminal. Not only that, the trains that run between the satellite terminals and the main terminal are fast and frequent.
Don’t worry if your connection involves switching from one terminal to another via the train. It doesn’t take that long, and it’s super easy to figure out. Just follow the signs.
Travel time between all terminals at Seattle Tacoma International Airport
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years making connections in Seattle. I’ve walked from one end of the airport to the other too many times to count, so I feel like I’ve got a pretty good sense of how long it’s going to take to make a connection.
Here are my estimates for helping you to determine how long of a layover you need in Seattle:
From Concourse A / main terminal to:
- Concourse B: 5 minutes
- Concourse C: 7 minutes
- Concourse D: 10 minutes
- N gates: 15 minutes
- S gates: 10 minutes
From Concourse B / main terminal to:
- Concourse A: 5 minutes
- Concourse C: 5 minutes
- Concourse D: 7 minutes
- N gates: 15 minutes
- S gates: 15 minutes
From Concourse C / main terminal to:
- Concourse A: 7 minutes
- Concourse B: 5 minutes
- Concourse D: 5 minutes
- N gates: 15 minutes
- S gates: 15 minutes
From Concourse D / main terminal to:
- Concourse A: 10 minutes
- Concourse B: 7 minutes
- Concourse C: 5 minutes
- N gates: 10 minutes
- S gates: 15 minutes
From the N gates to:
- Concourse A: 15 minutes
- Concourse B: 15 minutes
- Concourse C: 15 minutes
- Concourse D: 15 minutes
- S gates: 20 minutes
From the S gates to:
- Concourse A: 10 minutes
- Concourse B: 15 minutes
- Concourse C: 15 minutes
- Concourse D: 15 minutes
- N gates: 20 minutes
How long of a layover do I recommend for a no-stress connection?
As I’ve already mentioned, I’d want 2 1/2 hours at least for a international to domestic connection. However, to make myself feel as comfortable and stress-free as possible, 3 hours would be really nice.
As far as a domestic to domestic connections go, 2 hours would be nice. Not because it takes a long time to get from one part of the airport to the other – but simply because there are a lot of really great shops and restaurants inside the airport.
I mean, what fun is making a connection when you can’t stuff your face with junk food along the way?
In contrast, 1 hour layovers are OK in Denver – even with taking a bit of extra time to gorge yourself with food before your next flight. The Seattle Airport is nice, but it’s not as efficient as some of the others.
One final tip for making really short layovers at Seattle
The best advice I have for making really short connection times in Seattle is to plan ahead. For example, if you know ahead of time that your flight is going to be arriving in Concourse A, but your connection is departing out of the far end of Concourse D, you’ll know that you’re going to have to hit the ground running as soon as you step off the plane (OJ Simpson style).
A short connection like that is definitely possible, but you’re not going to have any time for food stops and shopping.
On the flipside, if you know that your connecting flight will be departing very near to where your arriving flight docks, you can rest easy knowing that you’re going to have plenty of time to make your connection (and to pig out on all the delicious food inside the airport). And who knows? It might even be as chill as if you were on a short layover in Honolulu.
Carrie @ Two Small Potatoes
Fabulous post! So appreciate the time you took to write it up so clearly.
We’ve been living in Europe for 8 years and are flying home finally next month. We’ll be traveling heavier than normal – checked bags, kayaks as excess baggage, and a dog and cat – and we’ve been trying to decide if we should choose a flight with 15 1/2 hours of flight/layover time or a 17 hour one with a longer 3-hour layover at SeaTac. We really prefer shorter travel time for the pets, but we don’t want to risk missing our connecting flight in Seattle. We’re going with your recommendation – the longer layover to make sure we get through Customs ok. We’ll be transiting mid-afternoon when it’ll probably be busy.
I’m a travel blogger but we don’t fly much, so I really know how much time and effort goes into sharing a post like this for free. You rock!
Good choice on the longer layover. 3 hours will be more than enough time, but at least you won’t have to stress about making your connection. Have a good trip!
Have you done international arrival to international departure, with a stopover there at SeaTac?
I live in Canada and will fly out of Vancouver in route to Dubai.
I have a layover in Seattle for 1hr and 12 mins. Vancouver YVR does the U.S customs pre-screening and my luggage is tagged all the way to my final destination.
I’m thinking after reading your post that I will arrive and depart out of S concourse, and since I already did the customs thing, I shouldn’t have trouble getting to my next flight?
I fly Air Canada into Seattle. Then leave Seattle with Emirates.
Hi Nando – yes, your assumptions are all correct. You will clear US customs and immigration prior to leaving YVR, so all you’ll need to do upon arrival in Seattle is head to your Emirates departure gate (probably terminal S). 1 hour and 12 minutes will be more than enough time. Have a good trip!
Hi Nando, I am taking the same route from Vancouver to Dubai. was the 1 hrs and 12 mns enough for the layover? Thank you!
Hi Scott, almost exactly what I am looking for, but I’ll be flying into Seattle on Singapore and then departing to Vancouver. Not connecting flights – will be separately booked as currently SIA doesn’t have direct flights into Vancouver. So in with SIA and out with Air Canada Express. Our SIA flight gets in 8:45am on a Wed and looking at CA flight to Vancouver 12:05pm. Will need to go through US Customs and collect checked bags. Would 3hr 20mins be sufficient for this? or would we be safer with 6:30pm flight?
Many thanks for your guidance.
Hey Sheryn – 3 hours and 20 minutes will be more than enough time (even if your inbound flight is delayed slightly). I’d definitely do that. Have a great trip!
hi Scott, my situation is kinda same with Sheryn, except that my layover is only an hour and 40 minutes. Will that give me enough time or any tip you can share so that I can make it just in time for my connecting flight?
Hi Annette – 1:40 is still doable IMHO (even if you have checked luggage). Either way, you’re not going to have a lot of time to spare. Just keep moving, try not to watch the time (lol), and you’ll make it. The international arrivals procedure at SEA is really efficient in my experience, so I think you’ll be fine. Have a good trip!
Hi Scott – Good article – thank you. Flying VYR to SEA with a 55 minute layover to KOA (Kona Hawaii). I think 55 minutes is enough to get our bodies onto the next flight (same airline and we preclear customs in Vancouver) but feeling really “iffy” about checked luggage. What do you think given these luggage nightmare times? There’s another flight out at 11:15 AM which I can change to giving 3 hrs and 15 minute layover instead of 55 minutes.
Hey Doug – glad this helped (sort of). 55 minutes will be plenty of time since you will do the US pre-clearance thing prior to leaving YVR. I’d probably stick with it, but I con totally understand feeling nervous about your luggage not making it with all the logistical issues going on at the moment. In that case, the 3hr layover would help to absorb any delays/issues. Also, with all the great food options available at SEA, you’ll have the time you need to load up on a great meal before the long flight out to the islands. Have a great trip!
Hi there, I will be flying from YVR to Cancun with a 1 hour layover in Seattle (same airline both flights). From what I gather, I should be cleared for customs through to Cancun? I’ll only be bringing carry on luggage, will I need to go through security again and will I make my connecting flight? Am I correct in assuming I would arrive and depart from terminal S?
Hi Julie – yes, you will clear US customs and immigration prior to departing YVR. This means that all you’ll have to do upon arrival in Seattle is walk from one plane to the next. Additional security checks (and clearing customs) will not be required.
1 hour will be plenty of time. Also, there’s no guarantee what terminal you’ll be departing from. Terminal S is mostly for long haul international flights, but Mexico flights depart from all terminals. Have a great trip!
Hi Scott, thanks so much for the article I find it very informative an helpful! I don’t have much experience travelling to the U.S. and I would be very grateful if you could give me some advice on this – I am flying to San Francisco from London (UK) and I will have a layover at Seattle for 2 hr 10 min in the evening around 6pm (I do not have any luggage just a backpack).. do you think that is a bit too risky and I should reschedule my flight? or shall I give it a go? Thanks very much again I really appreciate your help! 🙂
Hi Min – without any checked luggage, 2 hours and 10 minutes will be easy. It might get a bit tight if your inbound flight is delayed, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
Also, the good news is that there are a bajillion flights between Seattle and San Francisco every day, so if you do end up missing your original flight, you won’t have to wait very long for the next one.
I’d be totally comfortable booking that itinerary. Have a good trip!
Thanks so much for the prompt reply! Okay I will go for it! Thanks again 🙂
Hello Scott, thanks for the writeup; it did clear up some of my questions. I just personally wanted to hear your opinion while I do think we can just about make this layover connection. So Delta canceled their direct flight from LAX to HND and rerouted us to SEA then to HND airport. The layover time is 33 minutes, however since we(group of 4 friends) are leaving quite early at 7 am from LAX. The tracked flights shows it usually arrives on time, but since we are leaving on Dec 21st. I would assume it would be more crowded. Do you think with no luggage since besides already checked bags, it would be possible to get to Gate S from Concourse A? We are planning on sprinting as much as we can since we still do recreational sports. Thank you for the help!
Hey Phillip – wow, that’s going to be tight! You’ll need to be seated at the front of the aircraft on your inbound flight from LAX if you have any chance of making that connection IMHO. It will be possible, but you are going to have to run.
I’d recommend getting on the phone with Delta to see if they can get you on a different flight. You won’t have to pay for any changes (since they changed the schedule / itinerary on you), so it’s worth a try. Good luck!
Hey fellow San Diegan! This was awesome and very helpful, glad Google search results provided your blog post. I am traveling on Delta from San Diego to Haneda, Tokyo via Seattle in March. The layover is only 41 minutes! (annoying) but it looks like I go from A to S in Seattle, so fingers crossed for me. This blog post gave me some confidence that it is maybe feasible! Also, I never comment on websites, but felt I compelled because your blog post was so insightful and informative, nice work man!
Thanks Eric! Yeah, it’s a bummer that the JAL flight out of SAN goes to NRT isn’t it? HND would be much more convenient IMHO. However, connecting in Seattle is a pretty nice way to get to Japan from San Diego, as it’s pretty much right along the flight path.
45 minutes will be tight! You’ll have to hit the ground running when you arrive, but it’s a totally doable connection. Enjoy your trip!
Hi Scott, thanks for the info. I googled is 40min layover enough at Seatac and your article popped up! One thing I’m wondering is short layover with checked bags. I’m flying from Vancouver to San Francisco and then on to Singapore with a 40min layover in Seattle. I’ll clear US Customs in Vancouver so sounds like 40min is enough, but will checked bags be offloaded and transferred to the connecting flight in time, especially if the first flight arrives at all late? Thanks.
Hey Jeff! Yeah, it’s amazing what they can do with checked luggage at major airports. Don’t worry about all the horror stories you’ve heard on the news – 40 minutes will be more than enough time for them to transfer your bags from one flight to the next (even if your inbound flight is delayed slightly).
I’m not sure what airline you’re flying, but some have functionality built into their mobile apps that’ll give you real-time updates on the location of your bags. It’s worth looking into if you have concerns. You could also use Apple Air Tags just for extra reassurance.
Hi! This a very helpful article, thank you for all the info! Do you think a 35 minutes layover is enough? I will be coming from San Francisco and traveling to Portland, I won’t be checking any bags. Do you think is doable or should I look for another flight?
Hi Melanie! I personally wouldn’t choose a 35 minute connection – but it’s certainly possible if you hustle. You won’t have to go through any security checkpoints to reach your connecting gate, but you might have to run. Be prepared.
It’ll be a lot less stressful if you can choose a different flight!
Thanks for your very informative article.
I will be arriving from Portland, Oregon with Delta at 12:30 pm, with one hour and 15 minutes connection to London with Virgin Air at 13:45, therefore, a domestic flight to an international flight on a Sunday, May 21. No checked in luggage. Im worried !
Hi Floren – no need to be worried! An hour and 15 minutes to go from a domestic flight to an international connection is more than enough time. You’ll revive your boarding pass for London when you check into your Delta flight in Portland, and you won’t have to go through any security checks to reach the gate of your Virgin Atlantic flight (which will most likely depart out of terminal S). Have a good trip!
Hi Scott, this is really informative! Question for you: if I arrive from London Heathrow via Virgin at 11:40am do you think I can catch the Alaskan Airlines flight to Portland at 13.45pm or is that way too tight?
Hi Khushali – a 2 hour international to domestic connection in Seattle will be tight, but it’s certainly doable. You’ll be moving nearly the entire time, and there won’t be much time left to wait once you reach your connecting gate. I’d do it – especially since there are so many other options to get to Portland from Seattle if you miss your original flight.
Thanks a million Scott! I actually thought I’d listen to your advice and there booked the 2:45pm flight to find myself 3 hours but now I have a bigger problem. My flight now lands in SEA at 1:55pm. Will it therefore be impossible to catch the 3:45pm Alaska Airlines flight to Portland? Any later flight and I won’t get there on time!
Is there a car company at the airport that you’d recommend that could take me from SEA to Beaverton, my final destination?
I’m worried about taking a connecting domestic flight that I may never make! Any ideas / advice would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks a million!
You’re very welcome Khushali! Your new schedule seems to be ok still – you’ll have nearly 2 hours, which I think is a totally doable connection. I’d be really surprised if you don’t make it!
Other than flying, the best way to get between Seattle and Portland is by train (Amtrak runs 5 trains a day between these two cites I think). The only problem is getting to and from the train stations. Uber is probably the best solution for that.
You could also rent a car or take the bus. Both will be cheap, and the drive is about 3(ish) hours depending on traffic. I recommend flying though!
Thanks again Scott! I’ll trust you and go with the 3:45pm flight. Will just ensure I’ve got my trainers/sneakers on that day to move through the airport with speed!
Thanks for the vote of confidence! If you believe I can do it…that’s all I need.
The idea of trying to catch an Amtrak with a suitcase may be a nightmare . I don’t want to drive myself and a bus sounds painful so fly it is!
I only have a 1 hour 25 min overlay after arriving from Heathrow before departing to SAN. It was originally 3hr 40 mins but LHR to SEA has been put back 2 hours. I contacted airline about my concerns but they say 1 hour is enough(I know it isn’t). Any advice on how to get through immigration quicker? In the UK going through security they are pretty good at getting you through if close to flight departure time. Is this the case at SEA? Thanks
Hi Jane – 1:25 is doable (as they say) but it is going to be a bit stressful if your inbound flight is even a little late. Try to get a seat as far forward as you can on that plane so that you’ll be one of the first off.
If you end up running behind schedule and you are worried about missing your flight, it’s perfectly ok to ask the people ahead of you at passport control / customs if you can go ahead of them in line. Most will be sympathetic to your situation.
Worst case scenario, there are many flights a day between Seattle and San Diego on Alaska Airlines and Delta. You’ll automatically be put on the next one if you get stuck going through customs.
I think you’ll be fine though. A lot will have to go wrong to not make your connection with nearly an hour and a half to work with. Have a good trip!
Thank you so much. I feel a little better. I can only hope our international flight lands on time!
Hey there, are you certain that there is no security check point when transiting from domestic to international terminal? I am traveling from SFO to CDG, my SFO to SEA is with Delta and the second leg with Air France. I have a 45 minute layover at Seattle, will that be sufficient? I thought I saw elsewhere that there is a security check to go through on Concourse S.
Hi Jess – yes, you can get into the international terminal from the domestic terminal(s) without having to go through a security checkpoint. 45 minutes will be enough time to make that connection – but you will have to hustle!
Thank you for your helpful article.
Im travelling from Keflavik, Iceland to Los Angeles (SNA) through SEA with only 1hr 55min layover. (Land at 5:55pm and then fly to SNA at 7:50pm) The only thing thats worrying me is that I was told I would have to get my checked luggage and bring it on through myself. Do you think this is enough time to get my bag and go though immigration?
You’re very welcome Raven! 2 hours is going to be a little tight, but assuming that your inbound flight is on time (or at least close to it), you’ll be fine. The trick is to resist checking the time over and over as you’re standing in line waiting to get through customs and immigration lol.
You’re likely to use up most of that 2 hours going through the entire transfer process – so just be prepared for that.
We fly to Spain from Honolulu and we have the layover in Seattle only for 50 min. We will arrive at 6:40 am and we will fly to Atlanta at 7:30 am. I see that is a very essy connections but i’m not sure. Could you help us? Because we are a little worried about the layover in Seattle. So, you know the terminal arrivals from Honolulu with Delta airlines? The flight to Atlanta is with Delta too.
Thank you so much
Hi Victor – 50 minutes will be plenty of time (even if you have checked luggage, which will transfer automatically). You’ll most likely be arriving and departing from Terminal A – but know that Delta sometimes uses Terminal S for larger aircraft.
Even if you have to change terminals, 50 minutes will be more than enough time. You won’t have to go through additional security checkpoints to move between them. Have a great trip!
Hi Scott, thank you so much for the great article and all the details. If I could get some advice as well — I’m flying Alaska Airlines from Alaska to Seattle, landing at 10:23 AM. Flight records show this flight usually lands in N or S. I then have a flight from Seattle to Newark at 11:31 AM, which will probably leave from A. This gives me a 1 hour 8 minute layover. According to your article, domestic connections should be fine with this amount of time, but I booked these flights on separate itineraries, so I’ll be out of luck if I miss my second flight. Just want to get your advice if you think I can make it. I’ll only have carry-on baggage, so I won’t need to go to baggage claim. Thank you!
Hi Julie – you’re very welcome! Yeah, you’ll have plenty of time considering that you won’t have any checked luggage. Domestic to domestic connections are super easy at SEA – so you’re likely to be okay even if your inbound flight is a bit late. Have a great trip!
Thank you so much! I really appreciate the help. Thank you for the great blog.