Denver-bound passengers board a flight at Paine Field in Everett on Aug. 1. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Denver-bound passengers board a flight at Paine Field in Everett on Aug. 1. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Alaska Airlines anticipates more flights from Paine Field

In the weeks since service resumed, passenger volume shows promise, an airline executive says.

EVERETT — Less than four weeks after commercial airline service resumed at Paine Field, the Everett terminal is making an impressive comeback, according to an Alaska Airlines executive.

With passenger counts rising, Alaska hopes to add four more daily flights from the Snohomish County-owned airport in the next few months.

“Our goal in winter is to get back to six daily flights,” said Scott Kennedy, Alaska’s state and local government affairs manager.

Alaska currently offers two daily departures from Everett — to Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Kennedy’s comments were made Tuesday during an online meeting about travel and tourism sponsored by Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed most air travel, Alaska operated 18 daily flights from Paine Field to a dozen destinations, including Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County and Spokane.

United Airlines, which shares the terminal with Alaska, currently operates a daily flight to its Denver hub, down from four departures before the pandemic.

Ray Lane, an Alaska spokesman, said in an email that the carrier hopes it can “ultimately bring back flights to all of our pre-COVID destinations — but at reduced frequencies.”

System-wide, Alaska doesn’t expect normal passenger volumes to return for three or four years, Kennedy said. That’s in line with the most recent forecast from the International Air Transport Association. The trade group predicts that air travel won’t bounce back to 2019 levels until 2024.

Meanwhile, the Everett terminal, after completely closing for 10 weeks of ramp repairs, is making a strong return, Kennedy said. The terminal shut down in late May. By that point, the number of daily flights had already been curtailed to fewer than three a day. Service resumed Aug. 1.

“We’re pleased with the numbers,” Kennedy said of passenger volume.

Flights from Paine Field are about as full as those from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

For the first three weeks of August, spokesman Lane said, the load factor at Paine Field was 47%, compared to 48% at Sea-Tac. Load factor is an industry measure of the percentage of available seats filled by paying passengers.

Across its network, Alaska’s load factor is averaging 52% — down from 87% pre-pandemic.

In January, Alaska was serving 130,000 passengers a day throughout its network. In April, the airline experienced a 96% decline in passenger volume. “At that point we were flying 5,000 passengers a day,” Kennedy said.

Travel has recovered somewhat since then, but passenger volume at Alaska is still down 68% from normal.

Leisure travel to vacations sites such as Las Vegas and Phoenix has picked up this summer, but business travel hasn’t yet shown significant gains, Kennedy said.

“We look forward to getting back to pre-Covid levels,” said Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports.

Propeller Airports, which built and operates the $40 million terminal that opened in 2019, is allowing only ticketed passengers inside the building. Masks are required inside the terminal and aboard all flights.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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