Paine Field’s New Terminal Is GORGEOUS

Filed Under: Alaska, United

There are lots of things we can do really well in the US (like throwing the most beautiful paper towels). But for the most part we don’t have terribly nice airports.

That’s a topic for a separate post, but if you think of US airports, there are very few terminals that are actually globally competitive (exceptions including LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, Detroit Airport, etc.).

Next month, Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport will be opening a passenger terminal. Plans for this were first announced in May 2017, and it will create a much needed second airport for Seattle-area residents, especially those living in the North Sound.

Only two airlines will fly to Paine Field — Alaska and United. Alaska will launch flights in February to eight destinations, and United will launch flights in March to two destinations. Originally Southwest was also going to fly to the airport, though they changed their mind.

Up until now I hadn’t really seen many pictures of the construction at the airport. The airport had released the below rendering of the terminal exterior, which looked beautiful.

However, I hadn’t seen what the interior of the terminal would look like. Well, the engineers behind the project have revealed pictures of what the terminal looks like now, and wow is it beautiful.

Here’s the check-in area, as it nears completion:

And here’s the airside area:

For a moment I was confused and wondered if this was in fact a lounge at the airport, a restaurant, or something. But nope, this is just the terminal.

This is easily the most beautiful US passenger terminal I’ve ever seen. In fairness, the airport has the benefit of not handling that many passengers, so the terminal can feel a bit more intimate.

At the same time, the terminal is so nicely furnished that I do worry how well this furniture will age, given how heavily used passenger terminals are.

What do you make of the new Paine Field passenger terminal?

  1. It looks like a nice hotel lobby. Beautiful.

    Unfortunately, this is a pretty glaring exception. As a non-American, I find it peculiar how public spaces are so pitifully run down in such a wealthy country. It’s pretty crazy to think of what the US might be like if it hadn’t make a sacred cow out of relentless tax cuts and individualism at all costs. Ostentatious Trumpian gold leaf for the 1%, run down dumps for everyone else. Sad.

  2. The lounge looks stunning, but I doubt it’ll look as nice a few years in the future once the furniture is all worn and used my millions of passengers.

    @Lucky do you plan to fly to Paine Field when the stars align?

  3. Would agree with your sentiment that US airports are not world-beating. I’ve heard Indianapolis also has a really nice terminal. I will say though, that not all US airport terminals are bad. I’ve travelled through several that are perfectly satisfactory: MSP, LAS, MCO, SFO come to mind.

  4. @Boris: completely concur with your assessment of the U.S. When I first moved here, I really noticed how awful the infrastructure was. I remember thinking that there was more private wealth here, but less public wealth. The condition of the roads, public transit, parks everything were really not up to the standard I was used to in other developed countries.

  5. IND is very nice – consistently rated one of the best in the country. I’m partial to PDX as well.

  6. Surprising. Infrastructure and public facilities in US are generally in a poor state even comparared to many developing countries.

  7. Justin,

    The phrase, coined decades ago, is “private splendor; public squalor”

    It’s just the American way.

  8. Ah yes… your first (?) clandestine political reference to that scumbag Trump throwing beautiful towels in PR and no one noticed but me.

    Cue the Trump scum? Cmon we know you’re there, or still hungover from last night’s Nazi rally perhaps.

    Hey Lucky… keep em coming If you have the cojones which I seriously doubt (surprise me please!) You might have some principals and stand up against Republican bigotry against LGBT, women, non Christians etc etc?

    Who is your base? Just asking.

  9. @Ben, IND is nice because hardly anyone flies through there. The few times I’ve flown in or out of there, it has been a ghost town.

  10. Indeed but LAX Tom Bradley terminal is an exception and very nice. The new renderings of the midfield concourse also look good

    There’s also the Transbay terminal in San Francisco which has design issues and is closed whilst repairs are underway , but looks impressive and has a nice rooftop garden

  11. High ceilings look nice but costs more to heat up.

    The scarcity of gates and number of flights imposed by the county probably cause the run on establishing flights. If there were no limits on flights, probably Alaska/Horizon would start 2-3 flights to Portland and that’s it. But nooooo, the county placed heavy handed restrictions causing the daily 24 flight limit to be filled right away. The NIMBYs shot themselves in the foot.

  12. Very nice! I grew up not too far from here. North end is much more prosperous than south end. East Side is even more prosperous. As the crow flies it may be a toss up for someone in Bellevue or Kirkland to go to Paine or SeaTac, but traffic patterns and likely lower stress could give the edge to Paine.

    I would say success would come from how deep they can dig into the eastside market. United probably stuck around to move Bay Area tech people and vice versa.

  13. @ Andy… ooooohhhh towels! Just curious? What were you saying when Obama flattened Libya? Where were you when he came out with his “kill list” in 2011? Or how about when all of his spying was exposed and Clapper blatantly lied about it to congress?

    That’s right… you were nowhere to be found. Because you are a coward. And you are as easily impressed by a smooth talking soothe-your-pain conman like Obama… as a typical [email protected]$$ Republican is impressed by a blowhard chest-pounder like Trump. In other words, you have no actual political principles, you are interested strictly in aesthetics.

    I don’t particularly like Trump. But the scare stories you all have told for 3+ years of “impending fascism” have been total bunk. He likes to work on 1) trade, 2) creating a revised immigration policy that would be still LESS restrictive than 80% of the countries on earth, and in 3) ENDING WARS. Generally speaking the establishment won’t let him do that, because they make too much money of the way it is now.

    Lucky wisely stays out of it.

  14. Some of us come here looking for a break from politics. If you feel the urge to make political comments, there are many, many other places on the internet where such comments are welcomed.

  15. I always hear the narrative that US Airports are huge piles of squalor. That’s true if you only fly into LAX, Newark, or parts of JFK managed by British Airways or Air France, but most of these are airports scheduled for major overhauls or are under heavy construction. There’s no shortage of excellent US Airports:


    And on the horizon there’s:
    LGA (the new Concourse B is stunning)

    I personally find SFO to be among the nicest large airports in the world (sorry folks, Changi’s a prison pen once you’re past gate security) which I think it’ll have a lock on once the new T1 is complete and airside connections are restored. RDU is also extremely nice.

  16. Is there any info about the parking options @ PAE?
    I have booked some PAE>LAX flights. Would have thought that there would be info about parking/transportation as this is part of the analysis… Uber/Lyft, valet, on/off site parking, public transit, dropped by family/friend.

  17. I live right near PAE and hope I get a chance to fly out of it soon. I have been waiting for this for years! Unfortunately they aren’t flying where i typically go right now.

    @JeffBo – there is a thread on FlyerTalk for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan where the details on parking and transportation costs have been posted. Basically, parking there is not much cheaper than Seatac. Private parking options are unknown right now. Uber is probably your best bet. Also note the new Swift Green bus line will be stopping nearby.

    @Lucky – have you seen the United IAH terminals recently? Wow… they are better than lounges throughout with the tablet food ordering/delivery at every table. Power at most every seat… amazing restaurants… crazy stuff.

  18. Tampa International Airport is among the BEST! Very disappointed Southwest isn’t flying FL to Paines Field!! Dummies!

  19. What makes it “gorgeous”? Thankfully, Ben isn’t an architecture or interior design critic because he overuses “beautiful” and “gorgeous” in his writings. At least qualify why you think it is “gorgeous.”

  20. Interesting to hear other’s take on the airports in the US. In general, I feel US airports are mediocre at best. Of course I’ve not been to every single one of the US airports, but have flown into IAD, ORD, BWI, MCO, SEA, BOS, DEN, MSY, HNL. I’m primarily based out of SFO and I consider SFO at best just okay. It’s not bad but it’s not great either. I do a lot of international travel to HKG and SYD. SFO Intl terminal can’t compare to the international terminal in Sydney and even more can’t compare to HKG. Been to Singapore Changi Airport?

  21. I am flying in on Alaska flight on February 19 from San Diego and out on February 20. Back in again on March 2. It looks like there are rental cars from Avis not far from the airport. If parking is inexpensive in the area, flying from Paine Field offers a good option for me.

    The airport has some appeal aesthetically. I tend to arrive early for flights. I’d better have a good book. Hope they get decent wifi in before too long. SEATAC wifi has been marginal.

  22. We live in a country where 60% of the population pays ZERO net federal income taxes, looming deficits, and a mounting national debt.

    Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have been crowding out education and infrastructure spending.

  23. Using the toilet at an American airport is a truly terrifying experience. Dirty, smelly, not much room for your luggage, and sometimes they don’t even put doors on the stalls. Crazy stuff. Asian airport toilets are clean and private and you can poo in comfort. I always make sure my bowels and bladder are completely empty when I enter a US airport.

  24. @Boris Zhukov: It’s not necessarily a lack of spending. There’s a lot of corruption in our system.

    Transit unions (and many others) are solely in this to line their own union coffers. Everything from preventing upgrading equipment and systems, intentionally reducing productivity to hire more workers, to just flat-out not doing paid work. Janitors in many of the US transit systems get US$100,000+ for salaries but if you ever set foot in the NYC subway you’d wonder if there’s even a single cleaner on staff.

    Politicians like the union campaign donations, so they’re not about to get involved…

    So the users of these systems & facilities are left holding the bag. BTW, the same thing’s going on in the hotel industry here as well. Unions are pushing against phone apps, online check-in, etc., as it would take away from their union dues.

    It’s not too different from our healthcare system. Doctors, facilities, and insurance companies are all at the table. Patients are just seen as a source of revenue.

    I’m not entirely anti-union. I’ve worked for other unions (IATSE) where the union didn’t have any exclusive contracts. Thus, quality of workmanship was the priority since they could hire a non-union company for far less. The union made sure everyone was clean cut (ie: sober), well-trained, and professional.

    For more on how messed up our transit systems are:

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *