Southwest drops plans to fly from Everett, but Alaska Airlines will fill the void after slot deal

Southwest Airlines is abandoning its plan to be among the carriers to offer scheduled flights from Snohomish County Airport when it reopens for commercial flights early next year. The small international airport, serving part of the Seattle metropolitan area in the US state of Washington, is perhaps better known as Paine Field and is where Boeing builds, tests and delivers its widebody aircraft production.


Summary:

  • Southwest Airlines has dropped plans to offer scheduled flights from Snohomish County Airport when it reopens for commercial flights early next year;
  • The US LCC had said it would operate five daily flights from the airport, but has now transferred its slots to Alaska Airlines in a private agreement;
  • Alaska Airlines has now formally opened sales for its network of flights to eight West Coast US destinations from Paine Field, which will launch from 11-Feb-2019.

The US low cost carrier had revealed plans back in Jan-2018 to launch five daily flights from Paine Field, but never revealed details of its proposed schedule. Now, it says that “business considerations” has resulted in it dropping those plans and instead agreeing a private deal to transfer the slots to Alaska Airlines, who will be the dominant airline when scheduled flights commence in Feb-2019 with 18 of the planned 24 daily flights.

Alaska Airlines has now formally opened sales for its network of flights to eight West Coast destinations from Paine Field. These comprise Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, California and will all be served by an all-jet service provided by Horizon Air with its Embraer 175 equipment with a three-class cabin including ‘first class’ and ‘premium class’ offerings.

“We’re tremendously honoured to be a part of this historic moment with the opening of a brand new commercial airport,” says Andrew Harrison, chief commercial officer, Alaska Airlines. “Providing all new service from Paine Field and further expanding where we fly our guests highlights the strong growth in our region and a thriving West Coast.”

The idea of reintroducing commercial flights from the airport, located between the cities of Mukilteo and Everett, is not a new one and serious discussions have been taking place since the late 1970s. But it was not until Dec-2012 that the US Federal Aviation Administration ruled that commercial operations could take place at Paine Field. Alaska Airlines had been among those to previously fly from the airport back in the 1940s and 1950s.

At this time, it is one of very few new commercial airports being constructed, or converted, or planned for not only in the US, but in the whole of North America. According to the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Airport Construction Database there are just ten of them, and that statistic has remained steady for years. Located 28 miles north of Seattle, it is seen as an alternative for travellers seeking to avoid the traffic congestion and crowds associated with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, to the south of downtown Seattle.

The conversion of the airport to commercial operations was masterminded by the New York-based private equity firm Propeller Investments and who are putting the finishing touches to a 27,000-square-foot, two-gate passenger terminal. It had planned to bring back scheduled flights this autumn but an additional review of the impact on noise and ground traffic by the FAA has pushed this back into Q1 2019.

Alaska Airlines’ planned launch is scheduled for 11-Feb-2019, but that remains subject to government approval, while the transfer of the five additional daily slots from Southwest Airlines also requires regulatory sign-off. Its service will commence with a single flight to Las Vegas on that opening day, with services increasing over the subsequent weeks. United Airlines will be the only other scheduled operator at Paine Field with six flights a day serving its Denver and San Francisco hubs.