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FAA Approves Commercial Service to Paine Field. But Will Airlines Come?

Paine Field (KPAE) already had tons of large planes that are build and flown around the local area.

Paine Field (KPAE) already had tons of large planes that are built and flown around the local area.

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved commercial flights to operate from Paine Field (KPAE) in Everett, WA. Will that mean flights will actually start at the airport? Maybe not.

Paine Field is located about 30 miles north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and is where Boeing builds all 747, 767, 777 and (most) 787 aircraft. Although Boeing dominates the airport, it is owned and operated by Snohomish County and is a public airport.

Allegiant Air raised the commercial service issue at KPAE a few years ago and it has been a struggle since. Initially, Alaska Airlines said it would be interested in operating out of KPAE, then withdrew interest. It has noted that they would start flights if one of their competitors would (ie Allegiant).

Even though this approval passed, do not expect flights to start anytime soon. There is not a passenger terminal and members of the community are expected to sue to stop commercial flights.

PAINE FIELD COMMERCIAL FIGHTS BACKGROUND STORIES:

When the news of the approval surfaced, I emailed to multiple airport/airline contacts to get thoughts and some quotes. The lack of comments surprised me (ones listed as “no comment” actually wrote back to state that they had nothing to say on the matter):

Boeing: “We have no position on it.”

Paine Field: No comment.

Future of Flight: No comment.

Snohomish County Tourism Bureau: No comment.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: No comment.

Museum of Flight (Restoration Center at Paine Field): No comment.

Flying Heritage Collection: “FHC is following this issue with interest and we look forward to hearing more as details emerge.”

King County International Airport / Boeing Field: “The decisions at Paine Field have no direct impact on KBFI.  As an open-access airport that receives Federal funds,  the FAA requires us to evaluate any proposals to do business at the airport without discrimination.  Currently, no commercial service companies have expressed an interest.”

Alaska Airlines: (they win for having the most to say) “Adding commercial air service to a regional airport located 42 miles away from the state’s largest airport—and an hour’s drive from Bellingham International Airport—is not a good alternative for our region. It would also require a multimillion-dollar investment to build a new terminal and other facilities to accommodate passenger service.” They continue with, “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.” (Read Alaska’s full statement here)

Kenmore Air: “At this time, we don’t see PAE fitting into our current or envisioned route structure. But we’ll definitely be watching developments there with interest.”

Allegiant Air: “The report on Paine Field certainly opens the airport up as a possible opportunity for Allegiant. We are constantly evaluating new cities and new routes that may be a successful addition to our current network. We will keep Paine Field on our radar, but there are no immediate plans for service there.”

The lack of comments, especially from those who are closely related to Paine Field, lead me to  think there is much more going on behind the scenes. I can see why Boeing wouldn’t want commercial service traffic in its production airfield, but the commercial service would bring more money to the airport and area businesses. My guess: Politics.

Paine Field Aviation Day 2012. Could events like this be eliminated with commercial flights commencing?

Paine Field Aviation Day 2012 at KPAE. Could events like this be reduced with commercial flights commencing?

Surrounding KPAE are quite a few affluent homes that overlook the water. I am sure that many of those folks do not want the values of their homes to decrease with the initiation of passenger service.

Personally, I have a hard time with stifling community growth. Residences purchased homes knowing that Paine Field existed and could expand. My own home is in the flight path of Paine Field and, even as an AvGeek who would love seeing more planes flying over, having my value decrease obviously doesn’t excite me. However, it’s important to look at the greater good of the community and region at large. Improving the local economy with the job growth a passenger service would provide, in exchange for a few loud MD-80 flyovers, would be a positive trade. I am okay with that. Obviously, most in the area of the airport do not share my sentiment.

Expanding commercial service to the region would mean badly needed economic recovery for many in the area; but many government institutions and politicians are either staying silent or are opposed the additional service. Why? Most likely: Re-Election.

The airport can surely handle the additional traffic. According to the Seattle Times: “The FAA spent three years responding to public comments and studying the impact of 8,340 additional flight operations a year at the airport over five years. The airport is operating now at about a third of its capacity of 350,000 operations a year.”

One of a few politicians who have come out in favor of commercial flights is Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson. “The City of Everett has been on record supporting commercial air at Paine Field for many years now,” Stephanson said according to KING5. “Commercial air is necessary for economic development and job growth.  Hopefully we’ll soon be working with a company to provide commercial air at Paine Field.”

Snohomish County has already stated that it has a plan for a two-gate terminal, but it does not plan to spend any of its own money. With there being no terminal, looming litigation, and the fact that no airline is stating it will start commercial service… it is still going to be a few years before you can start flying out of Paine Field on an airline.

Other than Allegiant, I could easily see Spirit Airlines interested in starting operations in the Pacific Northwest. Frontier, who flies seasonally out of Bellingham, might be interested as well. It would be quite interesting to see an airline fly an Airbus product through the airport where the majority of Boeing wide-bodied aircraft are built. Hopefully someday.

 

This story written by… David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David starting AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube

Photos of the First Airbus A319 in Allegiant Air’s Livery

Allegiant's first Airbus A319 (HB-JZK) after being painted to their livery. Image from Allegiant.

Allegiant’s first Airbus A319 (HB-JZK / N301NV) after being painted to their livery. Image from Allegiant.

Earlier this year, Allegiant Air announced that they would be adding 19 Airbus A319s into their fleet. The one seen in this story was recently painted in United Kingdom Southend (SEN) and previously wore EasyJet colors. It currently shows registration number HB-JZK, but when put into service, this aircraft will most likely be wearing N301NV.

Their first A319 is scheduled to be delivered Q1 2013 and in operations Q2 2013. After it is delivered, the aircraft will be used for crew training.

BONUS: READ MORE ABOUT ALLEGIANT’S AIRBUS A319

Allegiant is configuring their A319’s in a high-density, 156 economy seat layout. The double exit doors over the wing shows that this aircraft is able to handle the 156 configuration (most A319’s with a single exit hold 134 seats).

One thing you might notice in all the photos is it doesn’t include the nose cone. I expect that is because the aircraft does not currently have a nose cone as seen on Skyliner-aviation.de. I am quite confident that it will have one soon.

I have to say that I love Allegiant’s livery. I think it looks best on the Boeing 757 and it is a bit squashed on the A319, but still looks slick.

Thanks Ken for the heads up!

ADDITIONAL ALLEGIANT A319 PHOTOS:

Allegiant to Add Airbus A319 to Fleet

What Allegiant's Airbus A319s will look like. Image from Allegiant.

What Allegiant’s Airbus A319s will look like. Image from Allegiant.

Today, Allegiant Air has announced that they plan to add 19 Airbus A319s into their fleet.

Allegiant will lease nine A319’s from GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) and also lease 10 A319s from Cebu Pacific Air. The first two A319s are expected to start service during the second quarter of 2013.

The aircraft, which will be configured with 156 economy class seats, will not be new and aged seven to ten years old at the time of delivery.

Can Allegiant’s success of a one model fleet, still exist with a fleet of three different aircraft types? Traditionally, Allegiant only flew MD-80 aircraft and more recently added the 757-200. Now, with a third aircraft type, that greatly increases training and maintenance costs. In a presentation given today, Allegiant stated that, “Pilot transition/training -less efficient, but manageable,” and that “Economics dictate this added complexity is worthwhile.”

“The A319 is a new aircraft type for Allegiant, but we otherwise see this as a continuation of our existing business model,” said Andrew C. Levy, Allegiant President. “A319 asset values have significantly declined and now mirror the environment we saw when we first began buying MD-80s.”

Allegiant is hoping to place the A319s on routes that are just marginally profitable for the MD-80 aircraft. The A319 is 25% cheaper per block hour with fuel and 40% lower on maintenance than the MD-80 aircraft. Also, the range of the A319 is greater with a 3,600 nm vs just 1400 nm, allowing Allegiant to look at longer route opportunities. At this time, the airline is not planning on increasing fleet utilization.

The airline is planning to retire two MD-80s, which have heavy maintenance checks coming up, but do not have future retirement plans at this time. By 2015, Allegiant is planning to be operating 56 MD-80s (58 now), six Boeing 757s (four now) and 19 Airbus A319s (0 now).

Buying the A319 is not a fleeting changing plan, but a fleet growth plan. There is no question that Allegiant got a great deal on the A319, since multiple airlines are dumping that smaller model for larger A320 and A321 aircraft. Soon, there will be more A320CEOs in the market, as airlines upgrade to the A320NEO family.

I would not be surprised to see additional A320 family of aircraft join Allegiant’s fleet before 2015. There will be a lot of change with the airline in the next coming years that will test their ability to succeed. I have a feeling that with the demand for rock bottom airfares increasing, they might be able to pull this off.

Let’s Rumble! Alaska Air and Allegiant About to Battle it Out in Bellingham (again)

Horizon and Allegiant sit on the tarmac at BLI. Photo from the Port of Bellingham.

Horizon and Allegiant sit on the tarmac at BLI. Photo from the Port of Bellingham.

It is always fun when two airlines are able to duke it out at a smaller airport. Alaska Airlines and Allegiant have both been flying out of Bellingham International Airport (BLI) [located just south of the US/Canada border and about an hour and a half north of Seattle, WA] and the competition is about to get… well… more interesting.

BLI has been growing leaps and bounds over the past few years. From being a small regional airline to one that is handling more and more flights. In 2004, the airport saw almost 80,000 passengers and  in 2011 that number rose to over 500,000.

Bellingham’s airport is pulling passengers from northern Washington and about 62% of their passengers are from Canada. It seems that both Allegiant and Alaska feel there is more demand, flying passengers to Hawaii.

Last week, Alaska put out a press release, announcing that they would start seasonal service between Bellingham and Maui (OGG) starting in November. This is interesting, since Allegiant previously announced starting non-stop service from BLI to OGG in November as well.

Although both airlines might not be too happy with the added competition, the airport likes providing more options to their passengers.

“The Port is very excited about the new destinations being offered by Alaska Air (Maui), Horizon Air (Portland, OR), Frontier Airlines (Denver, CO) and Allegiant Air (Honolulu and Maui),” Daniel J. Zenk, Director of Aviation at Bellingham International Airport explained to AirlineReporter.com. “Each new destination offers more flexibility and convenience at a low cost to our customers. The Port of Bellingham is proud of our partnership with the airlines and their ability to provide this service.”

Neither airline is willing to call out the other by name, but it is obvious that Alaska knows who they will be competing with. From their press release:

Alaska Airlines’ unique service offers many benefits for customers including:

  • Free carry-on bags
  • Free advance seat selection
  • First class seating
  • Complimentary inflight water, soft drinks, coffee and tea
BLI recently opened a new terminal to help handle the increase of service.

BLI recently opened a new terminal to help handle the increase of service. Photo from the Port of Bellingham.

See, Allegiant charges for carry-on bags, advance seat selection and drinks — they also only offer economy class seating. Even though Allegiant charges for these, the base-price for their flights will also most likely be cheaper and even after you add all the bells and whistles, they might still end up having a cost savings over Alaska.

Obviously, there is much more to choosing an airline than just cost and it will be interesting if cost or service will win out. Heck, there might be enough demand for both to succeed.

Allegiant is used to taking on other airlines and things do not seem any different in Bellingham. “The Allegiant business model is based on low-cost and value that stimulates new demand. This approach has led to 37 consecutive profitable quarters and will continue to help us grow,” Jessica Wheeler, Allegiant’s Public Relations Manager explained via email. “Our service in Bellingham has been very successful, and we are confident that all of our routes out of Bellingham will continue to attract new leisure travelers to our destinations.”

Alaska Airlines will start flying from Bellingham to Maui on November 8th using a Boeing 737-800, leaving at 3:00pm on Mon, Tue, Thu and Saturday. The return flight will be leaving at 11:00am from Maui on Tue, Wed, Fri and Sun. The airline will run the service through to winter until April 14th.

Allegiant will start flying from BLI to OGG on November 14th using a Boeing 757-200. At this point, the airline has not announced an official schedule.

Game on…

Allegiant Air Receives ETOPS Certification to Fly 757’s to Hawaii – Finally

One of Allegiant Air's Boeing 757s (N902NV) while still in Everett, WA.

One of Allegiant Air's Boeing 757s (N902NV) while still in Everett, WA.

The journey from rumors that Allegiant Air was to add Boeing 757-200s during the summer 2010 to their fleet to now receiving ETOPS and Flag Carrier Status status from the Federal Aviation Administration has been long.

Last summer, it was a let down for Allegiant, when the FAA gave them authorization to fly the new aircraft type, but they would not give the airline ETOPS certification to fly over the water to Hawaii. Over the past year, Allegiant has been flying a few 757s on routes in the continental US to gain experience. That experience is finally paying off and starting at the end of this month, the airline will start service to Honolulu, followed by Maui in November. Allegiant’s non-stop service plan to Honolulu:

Las Vegas – begins June 29
Fresno, Calif. – begins June 30
Bellingham, Wash. – begins November 15
Monterey, Calif – begins November 16
Eugene, Ore. – begins November 17
Santa Maria, Calif. – begins November 17
Stockton, Calif. – begins November 18

Allegiant will also offer nonstop air service to Maui from:
Bellingham, Wash. – begins November 14

“This is an important day for Allegiant,” Andrew C. Levy, Allegiant Travel Company President, said. “Obtaining ETOPS and Flag Carrier status not only clears the path for our new service to Hawaii, but also opens up potential international opportunities and will play an important role in our company’s future growth.  Our operations team worked long and hard to ensure the completion of this certification and we thank them for their dedication in achieving this important goal.”

Currently, Allegiant operates a fleet of 58 MD-80 aircraft and four Boeing 757-200s. They still have two additional 757s that are being leased. Allegiant plans to put one 757 into service during fourth quarter 2012 and the second first quarter of 2013.

Allegiant is still planning to grow and is looking at other route options. Previously Levy has stated that the airline is looking at the possibility of flying to Canada, Mexico and even South America.