EVERETT — Millions of passengers, multiple boarding gates, international flights — the contenders could claim big numbers and even bigger jet engines.
Indianapolis International Airport. Wichita, the biggest airport in Kansas. Manchester-Boston Regional.
The Everett entrant, barely a year-old, faced a crowded airfield.
Despite stiff competition, Paine Field’s new two-gate terminal was named one of the nation’s top 10 in USA Today’s Best Small Airport contest.
Here’s how it happened:
Editors at USA Today and travel experts chose about two-dozen airports to compete in a readers’ online poll.
The top 10 winners were determined by popular vote, and the Everett terminal vaulted into the No. 8 spot.
Landon Russell, another top-ranked local performer, was among the first to offer congratulations.
“Way to go,” said 10-year-old Landon, a highly rated young golfer with “a 10 or 11 handicap.” Landon, who was waiting to board an Alaska Airlines flight on Thursday, was on his way to compete at the U.S. Kids Golf Tournament in Phoenix.
“Compared to Sea-Tac, this is night and day,” said Teresa Russell, Landon’s mom. “Flying out of here is seamless,” the Bothell resident said.
To be eligible for the contest, the nominees had to serve fewer than 10 million passengers each year, USA Today said.
“While giant airports like JFK, LAX and Chicago O’Hare often dominate the travel scene due to the sheer number of passengers who pass through them each day, the United States is home to many smaller, friendlier airports that take some of the headache out of travel,” USA Today said.
With only two passenger gates, the Everett’s terminal faced some heavy lifters.
Alabama’s Huntsville International Airport, which began scheduled airline flights in the mid 1960s, rocketed to No. 1.
Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, in its seventh decade of operation, took the No. 3 spot. Long Island MacArthur Airport, at No. 6, draws travelers, and presumably voters, from the region’s 7.5 million inhabitants. Indianapolis International Airport, with 44 domestic gates and two international gates, took the No. 7 seat.
Privately held Propeller Airports built and operates the Everett passenger terminal under a lease agreement with the airport owner, Snohomish County.
The nearly 30,000-square-foot terminal, located between Paine Field’s administrative offices and the airport control tower, opened on March 4, 2019. Since then, the terminal has generated more than 300 jobs and served 956,982 passengers, Propeller CEO Brett Smith said Friday.
Ethan Merritt, who was waiting Thursday in the terminal’s baggage area with his wife, Stacy, and two small children, said he’s done with airports south of the King-Snohomish county line. “We pretty much refuse to fly out of Sea-Tac,” said Merritt, a Snohomish resident.
Merritt offered a few ideas to improve the new terminal. “I’d like to see larger airplanes — 737s — and more flights,” he said.
Other terminal users said they would like more parking options, a designated cellphone lot, a viewing area to watch the airplanes and lots more destinations.
Said USA Today: “With just two gates, (Paine Field) airport just 45 minutes from downtown Seattle offers daily flights to destinations like Las Vegas, Orange County, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose aboard Alaska Airlines and United Airlines.”
In its first year of service, Alaska Airlines reduced the number of flights to Portland and added a daily flight to Spokane. In June, Alaska will begin daily service to Boise, Idaho. Last month, United Airlines ended service to San Francisco but boosted its Denver service to three daily flights from two.
Combined, Alaska and United are capped by the Federal Aviation Administration at 24 departures and 24 arrivals per day at Paine Field. Alaska Airlines offers 18 daily flights.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods
USA Today best small airports
1. Huntsville International Airport, Huntsville, Alabama — 12 gates. In 2018, 580,932 outgoing passengers boarded flights.
2. T.F. Green Airport, Warwick, Rhode Island — Eight gates; 2,117,409 boardings.
3. Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, Wichita, Kansas — 12 gates; 1,665,116 passengers boarded.
4. Piedmont Triad International Airport, Greensboro, North Carolina — 25 gates, 938,593 boardings.
5. Bangor International Airport, Bangor, Maine — Six gates; 336,410 boardings.
6. Long Island MacArthur Airport, Islip, New York — 11 gates; 811,535 boardings.
7. Indianapolis International Airport. Indianapolis, Indiana — 46 gates; 4,655,847 boardings.
8. Paine Field, Everett, Washington — Two gates; opened March 4, 2019. Since then, 482,991 boardings.
9. Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, Manchester, New Hampshire — 16 gates, 911,225 boardings.
10. Long Beach Airport, Long Beach, California — 11 gates; 1,908,635 boardings.
Sources: USA Today, Federal Aviation Administration