An Alaska Airlines Embraer 175. The carrier plans to use this model on routes to and from Paine Field in Everett. (Alaska Airlines)

An Alaska Airlines Embraer 175. The carrier plans to use this model on routes to and from Paine Field in Everett. (Alaska Airlines)

Alaska Airlines hopes to be a decent neighbor in Everett

Diana Birkett Rakow shared aspects of the company’s philosophy as keynote at an Economic Alliance event.

LYNNWOOD — Some of the numbers had been previously shared: most notably, the eight cities and 13 daily flights Alaska Airlines plans to offer out of Everett’s Paine Field.

On Wednesday, a company executive offered business leaders from across Snohomish County a different set of figures, statistics intended to get across that the nation’s fifth-largest airline also hopes to be a decent neighbor. There was the $700,000 donated by its employees, and the company’s participation in more than 360 community events last year with the majority focused on charity.

Alaska also gave out $8 million in cash and in-kind donations in 2017 and donated 51 million miles of flights to charities, according to company literature.

Diana Birkett Rakow, vice president of external relations for Alaska Airlines, shared aspects of the company’s corporate philosophy and how her husband has already mapped out a route from their North Seattle home for flights out of Paine Field. She was a keynote speaker at an Economic Alliance Snohomish County event at the Lynnwood Convention Center.

“We are excited to grow with you,” she said.

Based on feedback from potential Snohomish County passengers and others likely to fly out of Paine Field, Alaska chose destinations of Portland, Phoenix and Las Vegas, as well as five California locales: Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose.

A passenger terminal is now under construction at the south Everett airport, after years of lawsuits and regulatory hurdles. Air service is expected to start in September.

Seattle-based Alaska last year became the first airline to commit to flying from the future terminal. It has 23,000 employees and “we are continuing to grow and hire,” Rakow said.

All of the Paine Field flights, at least initially, will be operated by Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group. Crews would start service with Embraer 175 jets. The E-175 has 76 seats. If demand grows at Paine Field, Alaska could start using versions of the Boeing 737 on some routes, more than doubling capacity.

Airline executives have said Paine Field offers an appealing alternative for travelers from Snohomish County, and much of the north and central Puget Sound region. As traffic worsens through Seattle, getting to Sea-Tac can take longer than the flight time to many regional destinations. Saving clients time by avoiding Seattle gridlock can make Snohomish County more appealing to businesses from outside the area, they said.

Local business executives spoke to that point Wednesday.

“Having Paine Field (service) is going to be very helpful to us,” said Russ Weed, vice president of business development and marketing for UniEnergy Technologies in Mukilteo.

“The opening of Paine Field is really exciting,” said Rob Green, CEO of Lynnwood-based Kirio Inc., which provides technology for builders to fully automate their buyers’ homes with the simplicity of an app. Green said there aren’t many software companies in Lynnwood, but its location near I-5 and I-405 is beneficial for start-ups and offers an appealing reverse commute for many employees.

The 27,000-square-foot terminal building is under construction between Paine Field’s administrative offices and the control tower. The project is being carried out by Propeller Airports, which is based in New York but has established offices in Everett.

The county government runs the airport. Under a lease agreement, Propeller will pay the county a $429,000 annual lease plus a share of flight and parking revenues.

Paine Field already averages about 300 flights per day, from general aviation, the Boeing Co. and other aerospace firms.

United Airlines also has announced plans to fly from Everett to San Francisco and Denver. From those hubs, Chicago-based United serves cities throughout the world.

Alaska Airlines, together with recently acquired Virgin America and its regional partners, flies 44 million passengers a year to more than 115 destinations, with an average of 1,200 daily flights across the United States and to Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica.

By late April, Rakow expects the airlines will have accomplished 75 percent of the integration goals with the shift to a single reservation system, website, check-in kiosk, app and call center.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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