EVERETT — Alaska Airlines began selling tickets Thursday for nonstop flights between Paine Field and eight West Coast cities. The carrier’s first day of service, pending government approval, will be Feb. 11.
And in a surprise move, Southwest Airlines, which initially planned to offer five flights a day from Everett to Oakland and Las Vegas, dropped plans for passenger service here. Alaska Airlines will take over those five gate times at the new, privately developed passenger terminal nearing completion at Paine Field. Southwest said in a news release the decision was due to “business considerations, and terms of the agreement are confidential.”
With that change, Alaska said, it will now offer 18 daily nonstop flights instead of 13 to Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Las Vegas, Orange County, Phoenix and San Diego. The airline plans to use 76-seat Embraer 175 jets which will be co-branded with Alaska’s regional subsidiary, Horizon Air.
United Airlines plans six daily flights to its hubs in San Francisco and Denver, also using Embraer 175s, but it has not announced a starting date. Paine Field’s three-letter airport identifier, PAE, is in the United booking system online, but no flights could be found and Everett is not yet on United’s list of destinations.
With Southwest’s withdrawal, service between Everett and Oakland is no longer an option, and there will be no Boeing planes serving Paine Field — at least not for now. Southwest flies only 737s.
Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines chief commercial officer, discusses service to Paine Field.
Although Alaska’s service is expected to begin Feb. 11, the airline plans to phase in the frequency, starting with one round trip that Monday to Las Vegas. The next day, two round trips are planned, one each to Los Angeles and San Jose. After that, “the planned daily flight frequencies will increase over the course of several weeks to ensure new operations are running smoothly,” the airline said in a blog post.
To promote the new Everett service, Alaska is offering fares as low as $39 one-way for a limited time, and the airline’s frequent-flyer plan members can accumulate double miles through March 31.
Inside the new terminal Thursday, plastic wrap still enveloped security screening devices where the Transportation Security Administration will set up shop. The waiting room smelled like new carpet.
Andrew Harrison, chief commercial officer at Alaska Airlines, got his first look at the place early in the morning when he came to announce the start of ticket sales. “It’s fantastic. It doesn’t feel like an airport,” he said, gesturing toward the cozy seating around the waiting areas, which include two natural gas fireplaces.
While the 30,000-square-foot, two-gate terminal on the east side of the airport is nearly ready, Everett-based Propeller Airports and the airlines still await federal approval for passenger service.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently completed a revised environmental assessment for the Snohomish County-owned airport, and a 30-day public comment period closed Nov. 2. The FAA is expected to issue a decision ratifying the report’s findings or requiring more scrutiny but has not disclosed the timing.
Obviously, Alaska expects a positive outcome. “We’re feeling confident enough to start selling tickets,” Harrison said.
As for Southwest, Harrison said, that airline recently made the “decision to centralize operations out of Sea-Tac,” south of Seattle. That airport’s location, on the other side of Seattle’s notoriously bad traffic, is the whole reason the Everett terminal exists.
Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, discusses the new passenger terminal at Paine Field in Everett.
Brett Smith, Propeller’s CEO, made an announcement of his own Thursday: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a Seattle-based cheesemaker and retail shop, will operate the terminal’s restaurant, coffee bar and bar, which will offer cocktails and wine.
Smith expects the terminal will be completely finished by the end of December. “We’re still waiting on some ground equipment and some monitors,” he said.