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Seattle-Tacoma International Airport brings new ‘inscentive’ to travel


The pandemic caused obvious disruptions to the travel industry in 2020, but perhaps less obvious, are the lingering and serious emotional impacts on travellers.

According to the New York Times, some 74% of travellers report feeling anxious about traveling due to COVID-19, which is a worryingly high figure for the aviation industry.

So how are airports working to alleviate this pervasive uncertainty in the air? Some, like Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), are turning to innovative solutions, like ambient scent.

SEA making waves
High-traffic areas represent key challenges for airports. Constant use can create stubborn unwanted odours that defy the perception of safe cleanliness. Scent can solve these issues.

Indeed, according to renowned scent designer, Raymond Matts, a scent can “possess the ability to be comforting, helping to ease the tension of the experience”.

SEA employs scent to achieve this comforting effect in their busiest restrooms and pet relief areas using the Genie diffusion system, by commercial scent provider, Prolitec, Inc.

The technology incorporates proprietary molecules that target malodours and odour-causing bacteria.

For those that have never had the opportunity to experience the subtle scents SEA offers, it can be described in one word – crisp.

Genie’s ‘Tidal Wave’ fragrance creates the crisp feel with a lively fusion of zesty orange and bright greens, sprinkled with subtle hints of white flowers and lily of the valley.  For the trained noses out there, one might catch the soft notes of sandalwood and musk that add dimension and richness to the experience.

 The scent journey takes flight
SEA has been ranked in JD Power’s top 20 airports in the in the country since 2017 and believes that fragrance helps reassure passengers they uphold the highest standards of clean, even in the most bustling areas.

“Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is committed to the safety and wellbeing of our passengers, and this includes a deep emphasis on cleanliness to protect the health of those working and traveling during the pandemic,” notes the Port of Seattle’s manager for custodial services, Valentine Smith.

“Ambient scent can positively impact the traveler experience, which is why we diffuse refreshing scents in our high traffic areas.”

Setting an Example for the Industry
In a 2020 article published by local newspaper, The News Tribune, Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said that the new traveller experience is a stand-out success for SEA.

“At the end of the day, what’s most important about the airport experience is how quickly and safely one gets to the airport, through the airport, and out of the airport,” said Kendall.

“That’s the real proof in the whole branding and customer service effort.  It’s encouraging to see them take the customer service experience as the core of what they’re trying to do.”

As the pandemic continues to be a part of our everyday lives, the airport industry is working to make travellers feel safe, turning to scent to help create a sense of wellness and a reassuring sense of clean.

Smith sums up:  “Focusing on cleanliness and creating pleasantly scented areas is part of how we create an elevated passenger experience here at SEA.”



  1. Laurel Van Horn 5th February 2021

    As someone working in the field of disability and who myself has chemical sensitivity issues, I am wondering if adding fragrance will negatively impact individuals with allergies or multiple chemical sensitivity. Other airports like Vancouver are designating fragrance free routes so that we can avoid exposure.

    1. Barry Schwartz 9th February 2021

      Hi Laurel! You are quite right, fragrance in traditional concentrations can be problematic for those with allergies and chemical sensitivities. However, modern diffusion technology can control the quantity of fragrance ingredients in the air so that no ingredient exceeds 10 parts per million at any given time, leading to a safer scenting option. Technology like the Prolitec Genie system employed by SEA creates a scent effect with only a “trace” amount of fragrance materials in the air, minimizing the possibility of an allergic response and can therefore be considered “hypoallergenic.”

      1. Marcus Winter 21st March 2021

        People who are fragrance sensitive or suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity react to offending substances such as fragrances even in the most minute trace amounts. The only safe amount of fragrance in public spaces is none.

  2. Nikki Hess 21st March 2021

    Creating a forced “sense of wellness” area can and does create a negative impact on those who suffer from asthma and fragrance/chemical sensitivities. Keeping in mind that as masks are still required, the “trace” fragrance would to be nearly impossible tor the unaffected person to benefit from. Further, “minimizing the possibility of an allergic response and can therefore be considered “hypoallergenic” ” is an oxymoron. If there is even a SLIGHT chance of an allergic response, it is NOT hypoallergenic.