It’s official. The resumption of commercial air service at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, will be delayed, a casualty of the ongoing government shutdown.
Alaska Airlines had expected to begin flying from the airport on Feb. 11, but now that’s postponed at least until March.
Paine Field, located about 25 miles north of downtown Seattle, has not had commercial airline service in decades. Two airlines, Alaska and United, had planned to begin flying from the airport following the completion of a new passenger terminal there. But that plan required approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Speculation began to build earlier this month about whether the shutdown would affect the start of flights there, and that’s turned out to be the case.
“Several key groups within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which conduct crucial certification and oversight work required for the start of commercial air service at Paine Field, are subject to furloughs because of the government shutdown,” Alaska Airlines said in a post to its corporate blog. “The FAA’s work on the environmental assessment continues. However, essential work groups within the FAA are furloughed, and further delays are expected if the shutdown continues.”
For now, Alaska says it has pushed back its planned launch of Everett flights to March 4. Still, it noted that date remains “subject to receipt of all required government approvals.”
“It’s a tough decision, but we believe the responsible action is to postpone the start of service at Paine Field,” the carrier added in its statement.
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The airline said Everett customers affected by the postponement are automatically being rebooked to their destinations on flights from the carrier’s main hub in Seattle. “It’ll be for a time that’s closest to their original Paine Field flight,” Alaska said in its blog.
Alternatively, Alaska will allow customers to push their Everett itineraries to March or later without paying a change fee. Customers traveling from Everett before March 4 can request a refund if they decide not to travel.
Alaska’s flights that were to begin Feb. 11 were to be the first of a schedule that will eventually include 18 flights from Everett to eight destinations: Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, California.
United’s first flights at Everett aren’t scheduled to begin until March 31. Its schedule will feature six daily round-trips to two of its hubs, including four San Francisco flights and two Denver flights.
The return of Paine Field to the U.S. aviation map has become a highly anticipated aviation story for 2019, both locally and among U.S. industry observers.
Paine Field already hosts a busy flight schedule, but that’s not from regular airline service. Instead, the facility is adjacent to Boeing’s largest assembly line, where the U.S. jetmaker performs final assembly on its 747, 767, 777 and 787 widebody aircraft.
Boeing’s large aircraft keep a heavy flight schedule at the airport, which also hosts some private general aviation flying.
But in May 2017, Alaska Airlines announced its intention to begin flying from Everett, which is about 25 miles north of downtown Seattle.
Seattle-baaed Alaska Airlines already operates its busy hub at the fast-growing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that sits about 15 miles south of the city.
When it announced its plans for Everett, it touted the move as a way to expand its reach into the northern stretch of Seattle’s metro area, where travelers can face daunting traffic on Interstate 5 to get to Seattle-Tacoma.
United also flies from Seattle-Tacoma, where it offers up to 40 daily flights to its U.S. hubs.
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