For Whatcom County travelers who don’t like driving through Seattle to catch a flight out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a better option is on the way.
“As our region continues to grow at a record pace and Sea-Tac Airport nears capacity, the time is right to bring air service to our valued guests living in the North Sound,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, in a news release. “Today’s news means less time stuck in traffic on Interstate 5 and more time enjoying your vacation or making the most of your business trip.”
Offering commercial flights out of Paine Field could have some impact on Bellingham International Airport. Sunil Harman, director of aviation at the Bellingham airport, estimates that 3-5 percent of Bellingham’s market share drives north to catch flights out of the local airport. Harman doesn’t expect that many will instead head to Everett because of the limited terminal capacity.
“It is much more likely that Paine Field will draw most of its market share from (the Seattle area),” Harman said in an email.
The Bellingham airport has struggled to maintain passenger numbers because of the weak Canadian dollar. According to the Port of Bellingham, 136,304 people flew out of the Bellingham airport through the first four months of 2017, down 11.4 percent compared to the same period in 2016.
Harman said there are signs the Canadian currency is stabilizing, so airport officials will continue to look for ways to increase Canadian demand for flying out of Bellingham to West Coast cities. He said the airport continues to have interest from airlines about adding new flights, but nothing has been finalized.
Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines, said their analysis indicates service from Paine Field will have virtually no impact Bellingham’s airport.
“Bellingham is an important airport for us,” Egan said.
For people traveling in Snohomish County, flights out of Paine Field could be a major time saver. Based on traffic studies, Alaska Airlines estimates Everett drivers could shave up to 80 minutes off their airport commute during peak traffic congestion times.