Workers continue to put finishing touches on the new Paine Field passenger terminal at the Snohomish County Airport Thursday. Commercial flights will start next month from the terminal, which is owned by Propeller Airports. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Workers continue to put finishing touches on the new Paine Field passenger terminal at the Snohomish County Airport Thursday. Commercial flights will start next month from the terminal, which is owned by Propeller Airports. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Paine, why no flights to Spokane?

Passenger flights out of Everett start Feb. 11, but Eastern Washington is not a destination.

So there’s an old song that goes “I wanna go home, I wanna go home, oh how I wanna go home.” That 1960s tune is called “Detroit City,” which has nothing to do with my hometown of Spokane. Even so, those lyrics rattle around in my head.

For years, I’ve wanted to take direct flights from Everett to Spokane. It’s exciting to read about commercial airline service coming to Paine Field — at last.

Alaska Airlines plans to start flying from here starting Feb. 11, eventually to eight West Coast cities. And beginning March 31, United Airlines has scheduled flights from Paine Field to Denver and San Francisco.

A quick peek at the new terminal, owned by Propeller Airports on property leased from Snohomish County, was enough to whet my appetite for easy travel. Workers and landscapers were busy there Thursday.

Yet my excitement about the Paine Field passenger terminal at Snohomish County Airport is tempered by the fact that neither Alaska nor United has scheduled any nonstop flights from there to Spokane — my most frequent destination.

Alaska’s announced destinations from Paine Field are Portland, Phoenix and Las Vegas, plus five California airports, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. United’s August announcement of its destinations, Denver and San Francisco, emphasized those hubs connecting travelers to global destinations.

So two airlines will fly to San Francisco, while none will fly from Paine Field to Spokane — the state’s second largest city, nearly a six-hour drive away, and with a population of 215,973, about twice Everett’s size.

A Spokane flight would make good sense because of WSU North Puget Sound’s location in Everett. Also, Washington State University’s new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in Spokane has a connection with The Everett Clinic and Providence Regional Medical Center Everett as part of student training.

I knew what I’d find when I checked ticket availability on Alaska flights to my hometown.

For Friday alone, Alaska offered 15 nonstop flights from Sea-Tac Airport to Spokane, plus four more with a stop. Nine of those nonstops had just one or two seats left as of Thursday afternoon. Having flown often on packed Spokane-Seattle flights, I see demand for at least one per day from Paine Field.

Ann Johnson, Alaska Airlines media relations manager, said by email Wednesday that destinations chosen for Paine Field “match the historical demand that we have seen from our guests that live in the areas surrounding the airport.”

“We looked at all of our customer data when making these decisions,” she said. Asked if announced destinations could change, Johnson said: “We will be keeping a close eye on the load factors once it begins next month, but can confirm tickets are selling very well.”

She added that the airline’s “Spokane flights are full” — true, I know — “and more than 50 percent of the passengers onboard are connecting to destinations beyond Seattle.” With 18 daily nonstop departures from Snohomish County, Johnson said, the plan is to give travelers easy access to Alaska’s hubs in Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

She also said the types of aircraft used between Sea-Tac and Spokane — the Boeing 737, Embraer 175 and Bombardier Q400 — didn’t play a role in Alaska’s decision on Paine Field destinations.

Early Dec. 16, I made the 45-minute drive from Everett to Sea-Tac to catch an Alaska flight to Spokane, which also takes about 45 minutes. My mom was about to celebrate her 97th birthday there. Awaiting my plane, I posted on Facebook: “How come no plan for Spokane flights from new Everett terminal?”

A number of Facebook friends commented, saying “I’d love to see Spokane on Everett’s list” and “Here! Here!” and “YES! Anytime now Alaska!” and “It would be so nice …”

One friend commented, “Heard they’re coming after the first of the year” — which is not the case, as far as I could learn.

Some travelers have other destinations on their wish lists. In mid-November, online comments on a Herald article included someone who had wanted “a Salt Lake City option” from Snohomish County, while another wrote “I hope to see flights to Eugene, Walla Walla, and even to Hawaii added next year!”

Hawaii, now there’s a dream destination. And I’ll admit, although my parents live in Spokane, a February trip to sunny Phoenix or San Diego is tempting.

With that first Alaska flight to Las Vegas scheduled 39 days from now, there’s huge interest in the shiny new passenger terminal. “The building is beautiful,” said Scott North, public information officer for the Snohomish County Airport.

North offered a reminder that the county’s airport has been in operation since 1939. With the Boeing Co., Aviation Technical Services (ATS) and other businesses, nearly half of all aerospace jobs in Washington are there, North said.

Propeller Airports will pay rent, he said, and Snohomish County will get a percentage of the private passenger terminal’s net income.

“Unless people came to the air shows, had a job at Boeing or had a plane, they didn’t come out to see the airport they’ve owned since 1939,” North said.

That’s about to change. And thousands of us can’t wait — even if Spokane isn’t on the flight schedule.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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