The two-gate passenger terminal at Paine Field in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The two-gate passenger terminal at Paine Field in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Alaska Airlines cuts Paine Field departures to one per day

Commercial air service at small and regional airports, including Everett’s, has dwindled or vanished.

EVERETT — Alaska Airlines will now operate just one flight a day from the new terminal at Paine Field, a withering change in schedule that begins Friday and extends through June.

“We will have one daily departure from Everett, and it will be to Phoenix,” Alaska Airlines spokesman Ray Lane said in an email Thursday.

“This is a further capacity reduction,” Lane said. “As always, if we cancel a flight, we work with our guests to get them rebooked, or provide a refund.”

The move ends service to Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose.

Lane hinted that Alaska could temporarily cease passenger service from the two-gate Everett terminal.

“If we need to temporarily suspend service at an airport, it’s something we never take lightly,” said Lane. “There’s little doubt these are challenging times for airlines and airports. Drastic measures are being taken that seemed unimaginable just a few months ago.”

The Seattle-based carrier initiated a first round of cuts at Paine Field in April, when it eliminated service to six of 10 destinations. Those cuts were part of a 70% reduction in flights across Alaska’s network.

The $40 million terminal is owned and operated by Propeller Airports, a private company that entered into a long-term lease with the Snohomish County-owned airport in 2015.

“We remain committed to our long-term partnership with Propeller and Snohomish County to provide service at Paine Field. Our first year of operations in Everett went very well,” Lane said. But he added, “Then so much changed.”

In March, the terminal celebrated its one-year anniversary, with more than a million passengers served. Before the pandemic, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, which share the terminal, were flying at near the federal capacity of 24 departures and 24 arrivals per day.

It’s unclear whether United Airlines has altered its schedule. United was operating one or two daily flights to its Denver hub, but in recent days there has been no Denver service, according to Flightradar24, which monitors air traffic around the world. United could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The terminal’s anniversary seems long ago and far away now that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the global economy. Airline and airport commerce has been crushed, with the outbreak forcing drastic reductions in domestic and international passenger service, amid an 80% or more decrease in passenger traffic.

Paine Field is one of many small and medium-sized regional airports across the country that have been hard-hit. The Lincoln Airport in Lincoln, Nebraska, saw passenger levels decline 95% in April.

Those facilities have seen their commercial flight operations dwindle or vanish — and revenues disappear, Todd Hauptli, president and CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation earlier this month.

“The number of people flying has dropped precipitously, and U.S. carriers have idled roughly half of their fleet,” Hauptli said.

Delta Air Lines this week suspended service at 10 regional airports, including Chicago Midway, Oakland International and Westchester County in New York.

The Atlanta-based carrier is consolidating service and will operate from larger airports in a bid to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure to employees and travelers.

Large primary airports, including Seattle-Tacoma International, haven’t been spared and reported blistering passenger declines.

U.S. carriers are averaging 17 passengers per domestic flight and about 28 passengers per international flight, according to Airlines for America.

Sea-Tac, which has 80 gates, normally serves about 50,000 departing passengers a day. Now it’s serving only 2,500 travelers a day, a 95% drop.

When it was operating full-swing, the two-gate Everett terminal served about 1,400 departing passengers per day.

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

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