Passenger service at Paine Field is seen as a business boon

The Everett terminal is unusual in that it’s privately built and managed — a rarity in the U.S.

EVERETT — Eager fans of the new passenger terminal at Paine Field hope the first commercial flights will take off before the winter holidays, so they can avoid the trip to Sea-Tac Airport.

Today, the drive from Snohomish County to Sea-Tac Airport south of Seattle can eat up an hour and a half or more.

Propeller Airports, which has invested $40 million in the project, expects the two-gate terminal will be finished and “ready to go” in September. But the Federal Aviation Administration is revisiting a 2012 assessment of the impact of the resulting additional air traffic at Paine.

The supplemental environmental assessment by the FAA was prompted by intense airline interest in Everett. The initial FAA study was based on 12 daily airline departures, but three airlines have said they plan up to 24 daily departures.

“We want to do this by the book and get this open,” said Propeller’s chief executive, Brett Smith.

In the meantime, construction continues on the new terminal. Workers have installed soaring glass windows that overlook the ramp and afford views of the Olympic Mountains, and they are busy putting up Sheetrock.

Propeller expects up to 1,700 passenger boardings per day.

Smith estimates that about 70 percent of the airport’s initial traffic will be business travelers.

Airline destinations, at this point, include San Diego — “helpful for the Navy,” Smith says — as well as San Francisco and San Jose. Those two cities are, of course, “gateways to Silicon Valley.” And the new airport’s proximity to Boeing’s Everett site makes it an obvious benefit for the county’s biggest private employer, he added.

The airport, whose three-letter airport code is PAE, will provide a parking lot for 1,100 vehicles. The number of long term parking spaces is to be determined, Smith said.

Propeller is negotiating with a Seattle-area restaurateur to operate the terminal’s restaurant. A locally run coffee bar also is planned.

“We’re not including any national chains,” Smith said.

The passenger terminal at Paine Field in Everett features large windows that look out to the airport. (Janice Podsada / The Herald) PHOTO TAKEN 20180517

The passenger terminal at Paine Field in Everett features large windows that look out to the airport. (Janice Podsada / The Herald) PHOTO TAKEN 20180517

The nearly 30,000-square-foot terminal, between Paine Field’s administrative offices and the airport control tower, was designed by Denver-based Fentress Architects and is being built by Fisher Construction Group of Burlington.

The terminal will feature two glass jet bridges allowing travelers to enjoy the scenery or escape the rain as they board.

Paine Field is owned and operated by Snohomish County under the county executive and the County Council, with an onsite airport director.

Three years ago, Propeller, a for-profit company, secured a 50-year agreement with the county to build and operate the new terminal.

The company moved its headquarters to Everett from New York and is leasing 11 acres from Snohomish County at Paine Field in exchange for $429,000 a year in rent, plus a share of flight and parking revenue.

The new passenger terminal at Paine Field. The ticketing and check-in area will be on the right, and baggage claim will be on the left. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)

The new passenger terminal at Paine Field. The ticketing and check-in area will be on the right, and baggage claim will be on the left. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)

This is Propeller’s first commercial air terminal.

It’s a unique venture: While many of Europe’s airports are privately run, they aren’t commonplace in the United States.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, who chaired the County Council in 2015, when the lease was negotiated, has said the agreement will boost the area’s economic growth and employment.

Patrick Pierce, CEO and president of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, has said that the area has lost out on corporate relocations or expansions due to the lack of a nearby commercial airport. Sea-Tac, which has 80 gates, doesn’t qualify due to its inconvenient location on the other side of Seattle. The new airport should make the area more attractive to businesses.

Paine Field, built in 1936 and funded by a federal Depression-era program, the Works Progress Administration, was originally planned as a commercial passenger airport. But with a military presence during World War II and the Korean War, those plans were shelved and the airport was developed as an industrial business center, according to Paine Field’s website, painefield.com.

Now the original vision of commercial air travel is being realized: Southwest Airlines plans five daily departures. It has not yet announced destinations.

United Airlines is planning six daily flights to its Denver and San Francisco hubs.

Alaska Airlines plans to connect Paine Field to eight destinations along the West Coast with 13 daily departures.

The Seattle-based airline plans flights from Paine Field to Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, California. The number of flights for each destination along with departure and arrival times will be announced later in 2018, subject to government approval, according to the Alaska Airlines website.

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This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Janice Podsada can be reached at 425-339-3097 and jpodsada@heraldnet.com.

The passenger terminal at Paine Field in Everett is taking shape. (Janice Podsada / The Herald) PHOTO TAKEN 20180517

The passenger terminal at Paine Field in Everett is taking shape. (Janice Podsada / The Herald) PHOTO TAKEN 20180517

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