Screenshot from a presentation by Sam Cho, Port of Seattle Commissioner. Courtesy photo

Screenshot from a presentation by Sam Cho, Port of Seattle Commissioner. Courtesy photo

Port commissioner talks COVID-19 impacts

Sam Cho at SnoValley Chamber luncheon: Air traffic down 75 percent at Sea-Tac Airport.

Cargo shipping, air traffic and cruises coming through the Port of Seattle have all taken substantial hits during the coronavirus pandemic.

The slowdown, especially to travel through Sea-Tac Airport, is worse than those of either 9/11 or the Great Recession. This economic hit was the topic of Port Commissioner Sam Cho’s presentation Sept. 23 at a SnoValley Chamber of Commerce meeting.

As of July 2020, air traffic was down 75 percent year-over-year when compared with 2019. There was also a 17 percent decline in total shipping volume between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. And the cruise industry has been entirely halted because of the pandemic.

But even before the coronavirus exploded in the U.S., cargo was declining because of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. The virus also began shutting down Asian ports in late 2019.

“We’ve been dealing with the outfall of COVID since November of last year,” Cho said.

Air travel through Sea-Tac Airport has been hit particularly hard. Cho estimates 20 million passengers will pass through the airport this year, less than half of the 50 million seen during a typical year.

“This is truly historically unprecedented,” Cho said.

While passenger air travel has dropped off, air cargo increased in February and March, as Amazon experienced a huge rise in demand.

And unrelated to the pandemic, Port officials are thinking about the repercussions of Boeing’s potential departure. This could not only reduce jobs in the area, but the amount of cargo being shipped.

“I would just really hate to see that job loss in the middle of COVID, and the loss of cargo through the Port of Seattle,” Cho said.

The cruise industry was shut down earlier this year after several outbreaks on cruise ships. Cho said the industry is expecting to recover next year, and people have already begun buying tickets for the 2021 summer season.

To counteract the effects of the pandemic, the Port is pushing forward with $1.5 billion in capital investments, renovating several airport facilities. Fewer airline passengers also makes it easier to undertake these renovations. Cho said passengers should be prepared to see significant construction at the airport for several months.

Businesses at the airport are also being offered rent relief, and evictions have been suspended due to the inability to pay. Leases have also been extended for three years.

The Port will begin equity and inclusion work. Historically, Cho said the Port hasn’t examined its internal processes. But the commissioners recently passed a motion prohibiting Port police from using chokeholds.

Another motion next month will address systemic racism.

“We’re going to be auditing ourselves on all the policies and practices within the Port of Seattle,” Cho said.

This includes looking at pay, equity issues and instances of racism.

In the Snoqualmie Valley, the Port awarded grants to support the “Savor Snoqualmie Valley” tourism initiative. Funding was also provided to the Carnation Chamber of Commerce and for the Seasons in Snoqualmie marketing campaign.

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Sam Cho, Port of Seattle Commissioner. Courtesy photo

Sam Cho, Port of Seattle Commissioner. Courtesy photo

More in Business

Mixologist and general manager of Civility & Unrest, Joe Dietrich (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
If you want a regular cocktail, go somewhere else

Master mixologist Joe Dietrich is elevating cocktail culture at Bellevue’s Civility & Unrest.

Front bar at Bellevue’s Civility & Unrest (courtesy of Civility & Unrest)
Two of James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson’s restaurants to reopen in October

The Lakehouse plans to reopen Oct. 12 and Civility & Unrest reopens Oct. 14.

Stock photo
Grocery store workers have right to wear Black Lives Matter buttons

National Labor Relations Board ruling against ban by Kroger-owned QFC, Fred Meyer

Sno-Valley Chamber CEO Kelly Coughlin; Lucas Haines, Volition Brewing owner and current President of the North Bend Downtown Foundation; North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland; Rob and Laurie Wesorick; Celeste Coxen; Wendy and Chris Stone. For information on this new venue, contact Chris Stone at
Pearl and Stone Wine Company opens tasting room

Pearl and Stone Wine Company’s new tasting room held its grand opening… Continue reading

North Bend looks at new hotel development

The City of North Bend is considering the construction of a new… Continue reading

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson presents SnoValley Chamber president, Earl Bell, with a community service award from the city Aug. 9. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record
SnoValley Chamber president receives community service award

In March 2020, while many businesses were beginning to reel from the… Continue reading

Big Island Poke in Renton (courtesy of The Intentionalist Facebook page)
Small-business advocacy group wants you to try minority-owned businesses and put it on their tab

The Intentionalist is opening up $400 tabs for folks to use this weekend at select businesses.

Wells Fargo opened a new bank branch July 29 at 250 Bendigo Blvd. S. in North Bend. Pictured left to right: SnoValley Chamber Executive Director Kelly Coughlin; Wells Fargo employees David Vu, Zuleyka Corro, Chris Hansen (back row), Roselyn Osuagwu and Jacob McBride; North Bend Councilmember Mary Miller and North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record
Wells Fargo opens new branch in North Bend

Wells Fargo opened a new bank branch July 29 at 250 Bendigo… Continue reading

Here’s how Buckshot Honey got its name

Snoqualmie business celebrates first anniversary after opening during pandemic.

Eastside King County restaurant owners discuss challenges with U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene at Pomegranate Bistro in Redmond. (Photo credit: Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
Restaurant owners discuss labor difficulties with U.S Rep. Suzan DelBene

Experienced service and kitchen staff are reportedly hard to hire as food service reopens.

Dave and Buster's restaurant and entertainment venue looks to hire 130 people to staff its Bellevue venue, set to open in August. Photo courtesy Dave and Busters.
Dave and Buster’s hiring 130 for August opening in Bellevue

Dave and Buster’s restaurant and entertainment venue opens in downtown Bellevue on… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Katie Podschwit, Dorie Ross, Kristen Schumacher, Heather Dean and Julie Chung, owners of Chickadee Bakeshop, Heirloom Cookshop and Snoqualmie Ice Cream are opening a new location in Snoqualmie this summer.
Three Valley businesses team up for Snoqualmie venture

Snoqualmie Ice Cream, Chickadee Bakeshop and Heirloom Cookshop will soon be opening in Snoqualmie.