With Alaska offering flights out of Everett, Bellingham could be impacted

Alaska Airlines selects destinations for new service from Paine Field.
Alaska Airlines selects destinations for new service from Paine Field. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Alaska Airlines will soon offer flights to eight West Coast markets out of Everett’s Paine Field airport, and that could have an impact on passenger traffic out of Bellingham International Airport.

In a news release the airline announced the nonstop service from Everett to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. Those flights are scheduled to begin this fall.

Alaska Airlines officials said the service is a new option for people in the north sound, allowing them to save time and fuel by not having to drive south to Sea-Tac Airport. The Bellingham airport considers some of that area part of its market, so this announcement might impact its passenger traffic by about 5 percent, said Sunil Harman, director of aviation.

The number of passengers flying out of Bellingham has continued to decline in recent years with the Canadian dollar remaining low. According to data collected by the Port of Bellingham, 373,877 people flew out of Bellingham in 2017, a 10.8 percent drop compared to 2016. The peak year for the airport was in 2013, when nearly 600,000 people flew out of Bellingham. The Canadian dollar was right around par with the U.S. dollar in 2013, an indication of how influential the Canadian market is to the Bellingham airport when the loonie is strong.

Currently, the loonie is hovering around 80 cents to the U.S. dollar.

Bellingham International currently offers a variety of flights from Allegiant Air and Alaska Airlines, including trips to Hawaii, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona.

As the passenger numbers have declined, Harman said the Port of Bellingham has responded quickly by cutting costs and increasing revenue in other areas to maintain a positive cash flow. He expects 2018 to be a year where the passenger numbers stabilize – because the airlines serving Bellingham appear to have found a good profit-to-seating capacity ratio. The Port is also working on ways to attract airlines to offer more locations, particularly destinations that offer package incentives.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz