United Airlines announces it, too, will offer service from Paine Field

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    A rendering of the new Paine Field terminal, courtesy of Propeller Airports.

    Updated with comments from Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson regarding the additional flights.

    United Airlines said Thursday that it will begin offering six daily flights between Everett’s Paine Field and United’s Denver and San Francisco hubs, starting in fall 2018.

    The announcement comes just three months after Alaska Airlines announced that it plans to operate nine daily departures from Paine Field, with destinations still to be determined. New York-based private equity firm Propeller Airports is building a new passenger terminal at Paine Field,

    United will operate six daily flights connecting Seattle to more than 120 destinations through Denver and San Francisco beginning in the fall of 2018, a company announcement said.

    “Bringing new service to Paine Field offers customers more ways to conveniently connect to the country’s largest business and leisure destinations,” said Dave Hilfman, United’s senior vice president of Worldwide Sales.

    The company noted that the announcement comes nearly 80 years after operating the first commercial flight from Paine Field. The airport was originally constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936 to create jobs and economic growth in the region, and later served as an alternate-day landing field. In 1939, United Airlines operated the first commercial flight from the airport.

    “We look forward to welcoming United Airlines to Snohomish County and Paine Field Airport,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “We are excited by the opportunities that daily connections to United’s hubs with international service will bring to our community.”

    Despite these rosy assessments, bringing commercial passenger service to Paine Field has had its detractors. The City of Mukilteo has been in the forefront of efforts to halt the project, joined at various times by other jurisdictions and the Save Our Communities citizens’ group.  The most recent effort, a challenge to Propeller’s lease agreement, was rejected by the State Supreme Court last month, effectively clearing the way for commercial flights to begin in late 2018.

    “We are obviously disappointed with this decision,” said Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson in an interview last month. “While our goal from the beginning has been to stop the project, our fallback position now is to limit the impact on the community.”

    But that just got more challenging with United now proposing to add six flights per day to the nine already planned by Alaska.  If these plans hold, passenger flight operations at Paine would be just one short of the 16 flight daily maximum set in the Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS) issued by the County in February.

    “The environmental determination from the county does limit it to 32 flight operations per day (so 16 scheduled take-offs),” said  Gregerson in an email.  “With this, it appears there is still an option for one more scheduled flight, but no more than that without reviewing and reassessing the environmental studies. That would be a major undertaking.

    “Our position would be that anything above the MDNS issued by the county requires additional review before any possible approval,” she added, “and we will be contacting Snohomish County to clarify that.”

    United currently operates 36 flights between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and its U.S. hubs. “North Seattle and northwest Washington are among the fastest growing areas in the nation and Paine Field will provide an essential and convenient choice for air travel moving forward,” the company announcement said.

    “United and Paine will give Northwest Washington travelers much needed options,” said Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports. “Offering service at Paine Field continues United’s decades-long economic partnership with Snohomish County, deepening their commitment to creating jobs locally and generating revenue for our communities.”

     

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