Environment
4:26 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

FAA approves commericial flights for Paine Field

Vacationers wanting to fly from the Seattle area to destinations such as Hawaii and Phoenix may soon have another option. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved commercial flights out of Paine Field, near Everett. It’s a proposal that’s been in the works for years.

Despite concern from some neighbors about noise and other environmental factors, the FAA issued a “finding of no significant impacts” for the proposal to allow commercial flights from Snohomish County airport.

The original proposal came from Seattle’s Horizon Air as well as a newer carrier, Las Vegas- based Alligiant Air. Horizon has since dropped out, saying they believe flights out of  Seatac Airport are enough. But Alligiant spokesman Carl Zablotne says his company's stance remains unchanged.  They might start by offering two round trips per week from Paine Field.

"Our business model is basically to go into smaller airports and take the residents non-stop to world-class destinations,” Zablotne says.

Right now they fly out of Bellingham and 76 other small cities in the US  to places such as California, Florida and Hawaii. Their fleet is mostly MD-80s, which the company says are smaller and quieter than the vast majority of airplanes already taking off in the area. Boeing manufactures its Dreamliners adjacent to Paine Field. It’s also home to dozens of small aircraft. Together, the county says that adds up to nearly 300 flights per day. The official decision allows as many as 23 commercial flights per day, by 2018.

Opponents say they’re hoping to appeal the decision in federal court, because they don’t believe the proper environmental considerations have been met.

Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon Air, issued a statement that the Puget Sound region is best served by Seatac Airport.

"Significant investments have been made in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in recent years with the completion of a third runway, a substantial terminal remodel, new rental car facility and 17-mile light-rail line connecting the airport and downtown Seattle. These improvements have provided more convenience
for travelers at Sea-Tac, where efficiencies of scale enable Alaska Airlines to offer our customers low fares," said the statement from Alaska Air Vice President, Andrew Harrison.

But if a competitor begins commercial service at Paine Field, "we would respond by adding flights using both a Bombardier Q400 turboprop and Boeing 737 jet."