Commercial Flights To Paine Field Delayed Until 2019

Filed Under: Alaska, Southwest

Last May plans were announced for Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport to open a passenger terminal. For those of you not familiar, Paine Field is home to Boeing’s Everett Factory, and up until now hasn’t been used for commercial flights. However, airlines started to see the potential for the airport, given how many residents there are North of Seattle (more than a million people live in the North Sound). Offering service out of this airport could save many people over an hour on their airport commute. Furthermore, SeaTac Airport is nearing capacity.

In order to minimize the environmental impact and impact on the community, the airport is limiting itself to 24 daily arrivals and departures. Much to the airport’s surprise, this capacity was reached in no time, as Alaska, Southwest, and United, all announced plans to fly to Paine Field.

In many ways the announcement of new flights reminded me a lot of what we saw in Cuba a couple of years ago. The difference is that there’s legitimate demand out of Paine Field, though airlines clearly announced a ton of service right away in order to prevent their competitors from doing so.

Construction of the passenger terminal at Paine Field is underway, and commercial flights were expected to start this fall. Now we’re finding out that this timeline probably isn’t happening.

As reported by The Seattle Times, the FAA is requiring a new environmental impact assessment for Paine Field, which the airport director predicts will push back the opening until January 2019, and that’s optimistic.

While the airport had a review back in 2012, the problem is that the flights proposed by Alaska, Southwest, and United, will bring many more passengers than the review initially covered. The initial review covered about 1,000 passengers per day, while current scheduled service could see the airport getting about 2,000 passenger per day.

The airport didn’t think they’d fill all 24 slots immediately, let alone that airlines would fly larger jets, like the 737s that Southwest intends to use. As the FAA said in a statement, the proposed service to Paine Field involves “more airlines, more aircraft operations, and a different fleet mix than what was originally proposed.”

While the airport director is hoping for a January 2019 opening of the passenger terminal, these reviews typically take 6-18 months, according to the FAA, meaning that the opening of the airport could even be pushed back until late 2019.

Unfortunately for the time being it looks like the start of commercial service at Paine Field will be delayed for an unknown amount of time. Definitely don’t expect to see airlines flying out of the airport in 2018, so now it’s just a question of whether it will be early 2019 or late 2019 (or maybe even later, who knows).

(Tip of the hat to Dave – Canada)

  1. Maybe a dumb question.. but the area sees hundreds of take offs and landings for Boeing test flights everyday, how much more would the environment get affected by 24 more landings and takeoffs?

  2. Very strange. The original application projected 2 MD 80 flights per day by Allegiant and 10 Q400 flights by Alaska/Horizon. Is that much different from 24 E175’s and 737’s? Besides, Paine Field airline service means fewer cars to SEA and slightly fewer passengers at SEA, reducing pollution.

    With this environmental re-review planned, would it be possible for the FAA to delay or stop any airport from adding 2 gates or more than 12 flights?

  3. I guess they couldn’t start with 10 flights while waiting for the new impact assessment?

  4. @Unnayan Jain,
    Where are you getting “hundreds” of Boeing flights from? Small private plates account for most of the current traffic. According to the article:

    Currently small private aircraft do most of the flying at Paine Field. Airport officials said small planes averaged 285 operations per day in 2016, counting not only landings and takeoffs but repeated touch-and-go pilot-training maneuvers, each equivalent to a landing and a takeoff.

    The airfield is also used by Boeing for its widebody jet deliveries and by aircraft maintenance and overhaul company ATS, which maintains and overhauls airline jets, mostly narrowbody 737s and A320s, and sometimes by the military.

    Operational data supplied by the airport show these large aircraft last year accounted for a daily average of just 12 landings or takeoffs per day out of the airfield.

  5. Unnayan Jain – We don’t know – hence the need for an assessment. It’s not just the take off and landings, it’s also things like congestion and people getting to and from the airport etc. There’s a huge number of tiny things that most people would never even consider need to be looked at.

    Interesting they need to delay the whole thing though – could they not open as “Phase 1” doing operations as first envisaged, then expand after the additional assessment is done?

  6. I visited the area last month. I parked my car and waited for 30 minutes to see a plane land or takeoff. There were none so I left. Doesn’t seem that busy.

  7. Why delay the ENTIRE project and not just phase in what was originally proposed????? Makes absolute sense but then again look at what state we live in! Nothing ever gets done on time or on budget! Maybe figure on 2030 ( if ever ).

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