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FAA approves commercial flights from Everett’s Paine Field

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Dec. 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
December 4, 2012 4:18 pm

The Puget Sound area may soon see commercial flights from another regional airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration in a long-anticipated ruling today approved commercial passenger operations from Everett’s Paine Field. The federal agency said that up to 23 flights daily would not cause significant noise and pollution effects at the airport north of Seattle.

Both Las Vegas-based Allegiant Airlines and SeaTac’s Alaska Airlines say they may begin passenger flights from the airport.

Allegiant has made flying from alternate airports to vacation destinations, often on a less-than-daily basis, its specialty. The airline, which flies MD-80 and Boeing 757 aircraft, now flies from Bellingham to several U.S. destinations including Southern California, Las Vegas and Hawaii.

Alaska has countered Allegiant’s incursion into its home territory with flights from Bellingham to Hawaii and Las Vegas.

Allegiant has said it may start service with four flights daily and increase to as many as 20 flights daily within five years.

Alaska and its Horizon Air regional subsidiary prefer to limit their flying in the Puget Sound area to SeaTac and Bellingham, But the airline said it will begin service to Paine Field if Allegiant starts service there.

“Alaska Airlines believes the Puget Sound region is best served by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Adding commercial air service to a regional airport located 42 miles away from the state’s largest airport—and an hour’s drive from Bellingham International Airport—is not a good alternative for our region,” said Andrew Harrison, Alaska’s vice president of planning and revenue management.

“It would also require a multimillion-dollar investment to build a new terminal and other facilities to accommodate passenger service,” he said.

“With this said, if a competitor begins commercial service at Paine Field, we
would respond by adding flights using both a Bombardier Q400 turboprop and
Boeing 737 jet.”

Alaska has a history of responding quickly to threats to its domination of air service in the Puget Sound area. When Southwest Airlines proposed moving its service from Sea-Tac Airport to Boeing Field several years ago, Alaska said it would match Southwest’s flight schedule there. Southwest ultimately backed away from the proposal after political opposition mounted.

Paine Field is no stranger to large jet operations. The airport is home to the world’s largest aircraft plant where Boeing builds its wide-bodied planes. Paine Field is also is the site of the nation’s largest third-party aircraft maintenance and overhaul provider, Aviation Technical Services, which provides service for Alaska, Southwest, UPS and Delta aircraft among others.

The field was once used as an Air Force base before it was closed in the mid-’60s.

Before commercial service could begin, the county would have to build a terminal facility, and the airlines would have to obtain additional permits.

While the City of Everett and much of the local business community has supported the beginning of commercial service at Paine, local residents have spoken out strongly against it.

For residents living north of downtown Seattle, commercial flights from Paine Field would greatly uncomplicate their journeys. Now they must drive past downtown Seattle or Bellevue on crowded freeways to reach Sea-Tac.

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