Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

Paine Field Operators Seek New Airlines to Replace United

The small airport North of Seattle is looking for new airlines to launch operations there to provide competition to Alaska Airlines and give more choice to passengers

by Fergus Cole

April 21, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Paine Field Passenger Terminal

Propeller Airports, the operators of the passenger terminal at Paine Field (PAE), are actively looking for new carriers to replace United Airlines, which ceased flying to the regional airport in 2021.

United began operating flights to Paine Field—also known as Snohomish County Airport—at the beginning of 2019, just after the regional airport in the north of the Seattle metropolitan area opened its passenger terminal. United initially operated two routes to the airport – from Denver (DEN) and San Francisco (SFO).

Photo: Courtesy of Paine Field Passenger Terminal

However, both these routes were relatively short-lived. The only airport in the Seattle region served by United is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is the only airline to operate passenger flights out of Paine Field. Low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines also planned to operate up to five flights per day out of Paine Field, but these were scrapped before launch.

Now, the operators at Paine Field have confirmed they are looking for other airlines to launch operations at the airport and refill the void left by United’s departure.

“Getting another carrier is a top priority for us,” said Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports. “It brings business diversity and additional competition, which is important for our customers and provides them further choice.”

Photo: Courtesy of Paine Field Passenger Terminal

Alaska Airlines operates between ten and eighteen flights per day out of Paine Field, connecting it to nine destinations across the U.S. Around 2,200 passengers pass through the regional airport daily.

However, Smith said that, like many other small airports across the country, Paine Field is struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels, claiming that most airlines prioritize restoring full service at their primary hubs and other major airports.

“Smaller second airports are still having trouble getting back, and that’s because of a lack of equipment and pilots,” added Smith.

Photo: Courtesy of Paine Field Passenger Terminal

However, there is reason for optimism at Paine Field, with the airport already seeing high summer bookings. Smith suggested that demand should be sufficient to launch flights to destinations such as Hawaii, Chicago, Denver, or Salt Lake City. Snohomish County has also laid out plans to expand the airport, including adding new gates and boarding areas that will enable the introduction of new flights.

Paine Field could also look to the recent success of newly-founded carriers such as Breeze Airways and Avelo Airlines, which have helped expand service to small and regional airports across the southeast U.S. over the last few years.

Photo: Courtesy of Y S / Unsplash

However, Josh Brown, regional director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, said that any airlines coming to Paine Field would find it tough to compete with Alaska Airlines.

Such carriers will “discover pretty quickly that loyal following that Alaska has been able to really earn over their many, many years being Washington’s hometown airline,” he said. “That’s somewhat unique. When you go to other markets, you don’t see that same level of loyalty.”