By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — The effort to begin commercial flights to Paine Field has the backing of the board of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, an influential group in the region.
“We believe the benefits outweigh the negative,” John Graham, PNAA board secretary, told about 400 people attending the organization’s annual conference on Tuesday.
The group believes commercial flights out of Everett will help the region’s aerospace industry by enabling suppliers to tap lower-cost workforces like those in Spokane, Montana and northern Idaho, he said. Ultimately, the move will help keep work in the region rather than seeing aerospace jobs go overseas.
“Improving the ability to move people and supplies within the aerospace supply chain will reduce the time and cost associated with building aircraft parts and assemblies,” Graham said.
The FAA recently determined that daily flights requested by Allegiant Air, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air would not have a significant environmental impact. The adjacent cities of Mukilteo and Edmonds, however, have vowed to fight commercial service at Paine Field.
Jude Bricker, vice president of corporate finance for Allegiant, also spoke Tuesday at the PNAA conference.
Allegiant’s first opportunity to start service at Paine Field would be this fall, Bricker said.
Commercial service from Paine Field would be a “great opportunity” for Allegiant, he said, and the airline is in “serious discussions” with airport officials.
Allegiant already operates about 15 flights daily in and out of Bellingham, Bricker said. Allegiant operates a fleet consisting largely of MD-80 aircraft. The carrier also recently purchased some Airbus A320 jets.
The carrier caters solely to leisure travelers who want to snag low fares to destinations including Las Vegas, San Diego, Orlando and Honolulu. Allegiant flies to those locations from smaller cities like Eugene, Ore., Missoula, Mont., Casper, Wyo., and Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“If we can get the fare low enough, we can get people to travel to Vegas,” Bricker said.
To make money, though, the airline makes sure it fills “every seat we can.” The carrier, like a lot of others, charges fees to check bags, for early boarding and for premium seating.
If you don’t like to fly ultra-low-cost carriers like Allegiant and Spirit Airlines, don’t write them off, Bob McAdoo, an aviation analyst for Imperial Capital, said during the conference.
“People will fly them,” he said.
As for the overall aviation market, McAdoo warned against paying too much attention to passenger and cargo air traffic data given by groups like International Air Transport Association. By those numbers, the U.S. is no longer a growth market, he said. But McAdoo pointed out that many U.S. carriers are making money, finally.
McAdoo also weighed in briefly on the Boeing 787, which has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration. Most buyers already have waited an extra three years for the Dreamliner.
For them, “it’s just a bump in the road,” McAdoo said.
The PNAA conference continues through Thursday. Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to address the conference Wednesday.