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Originally published Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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Big shuffle in gates coming to Sea-Tac Airport

Alaska Airlines moves to the airport's north satellite next spring in advance of major renovations, and other airlines will shift gates and ticket counters.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Too bad there isn't a rating agency that could do the same for the airline industry... MORE
hopefully moving United down will help with the traffic backup near Alaska every day. ... MORE
zDawg..you're absolutely wrong about that. The article was correct..getting to and fro... MORE

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Passengers flying out of Sea-Tac Airport will find their airlines playing a game of musical chairs starting next year, as the airport turns over the entire north satellite "N" gate area to Alaska Airlines, its largest carrier.

United Airlines' customers will notice the biggest change. Plans are to move United's ticket counter from the far north end of the airport to the far south end near the international area.

United's gates in the north satellite will move to Concourse A in the main terminal, along with those of SkyWest and Air Canada Jazz, which now use the N gates.

American and JetBlue will move from Concourse A to D; Frontier and Virgin America will move from A to B, and Hawaiian Airlines will move from A to the south satellite "S" gates. Ticket-counter locations for all those but Hawaiian will also change.

The moves will take place sometime next spring, said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper, all in preparation for a $230 million renovation of the 40-year-old north satellite to include three additional gates for Alaska, for a total of 15; a new rooftop frequent-flier lounge; seismic upgrades; and new concessions and waiting areas for the airport trains.

Construction in the north satellite will begin in early 2014, and take two years to complete.

The changes mean that most passengers flying on Alaska's fleet of Boeing 737s will be taking the train to their gates in the north satellite (some Alaska flights will use D gates in the main terminal), while those flying on its commuter carrier, Horizon Air, will continue using gates at Concourse C.

Alaska said it did studies showing that it takes about the same amount of time to reach the N gates on the train as it does to walk to gates near the end of Concourse C.

Alaska and Horizon carried half of Sea-Tac's 32.8 million passengers in 2011. The Port of Seattle will pay $194 million of the costs of redoing the north satellite. The airline will pick up the rest.

AAA takes a stand

It's good to see the AAA auto club using its clout to push hotels into doing away with two practices that irritate most travelers — hidden fees and charging for Wi-Fi.

AAA members take the club's Diamond ratings seriously, so it's about time its hotel inspectors revised their guidelines (the blueprint for assigning ratings of one to five AAA diamonds) to go beyond lobby design and in-room coffee makers. As part of the inspection process, AAA says that hotels charging resort and Wi-Fi fees will get points taken off their evaluation scores, which could affect their overall rating.

"Members want all-inclusive, published room rates with no surprises at checkout," said a statement from Michael Petrone, AAA's director of tourism information. So right.

Rain 'n all

BootsnAll, the cheeky online travel guide published in Oregon, gives Seattle a "6" on its budget travel scale, concluding that although the cost of having a cocktail or dinner out is not as painful as it is in San Francisco or Miami, cheap accommodations are hard to come by.

Our "laid-back vibe" makes us attractive to independent travelers, according to the website's new Seattle Indie Travel Guide. We win high marks for being a place to sample home brews, take public transport and ride ferries, but fall down for "gray and rainy" weather, "making all the outdoor activities more problematic."

We know better, of course. More at www.bootsnall.com/usa-washington-seattle.

Carol Pucci welcomes travel questions. Contact her at travel@carolpucci.com. Web/blog: www.carolpucci.com. Twitter: @carolpucci

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About Travel Wise

Travel Wise is aimed at helping people travel smart, especially independent travelers seeking good value. Drawing on her own experiences and readers', Carol Pucci covers everything from the best resources to how to tap into the local culture. Her column runs each Sunday in the Travel section.

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