While KPAE will have Boeing heavies gracing its skies, it is about to get smaller, scheduled, visitors.  Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

While KPAE will have Boeing heavies still, it is about to get smaller, scheduled visitors – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Snohomish County was going to get a passenger terminal one way or another. American development corporation Propeller Airports has been granted a long-term land lease, to the tune of an eventual $25 million, to construct a two-gate terminal at Paine Field (KPAE). This is the airport, as most of you probably know, where Boeing builds the 747, 767, 777, and most 787s.

The airport will be operated as a public-private partnership between Propeller Airports and Snohomish County. Paine Field currently operates with a total of 305 daily movements (very few of them are actually Boeing’s). The airport has been described as operating at a mere 45% capacity. This terminal will likely kick that up an additional 5%, better translated as an additional sixteen aircraft movements.

No matter how close to residential areas the airport is, the public good and possible economic development for Snohomish County outweigh the complaints of ever-quieter airliners landing at Paine field.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 at Paine Field (for maintenance).

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 at Paine Field (for maintenance) – Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter

Ignore the noise argument as a non-starter, as Paine Field is home to Boeing’s largest, wide-body final assembly line, filling the skies with some of the largest passenger aircraft in existence on an almost daily basis. The fact is, most aircraft likely to serve Paine Field in the next few years are going to be of the smaller and quieter variety; like the Q400 and regional jets.

So we’ve established that, yes, Paine Field is going to become a passenger airport. Though those details are developing, let’s take a look at what this means for those of us who live closer to Paine Field than they do to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The east side of Seattle is a hard-to-define metroplex. Most people agree, at least, that it contains Bellevue, Kirkland, Bothell, and Redmond. After that, the lines get blurred.

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

Paine Aviation Day 2012. Will commercial flights hurt these events? Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter

The population of this area is not large – probably only about 300,000 people. Larger when you count the areas in Snohomish County. But despite that fact, it has a booming economy. Microsoft, Expedia, and Boeing, to name a few.

I’m just going to come out and say this. Do not expect flights to major business markets from Paine Field right away. Sea-Tac is the airport in the area with all the star power. It offers international connections, proximity to the financial district in downtown Seattle, as well as longer runways. It’s basically the only game in town.

Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400 landing in its namesake state - Photo: AirlineReporter.com

Paine Field would likely start seeing Alaska Q400s – Photo: AirlineReporter

What can us Seattle eastsiders and residents of Snohomish County expect to see flying from Paine Field once the passenger terminal is constructed, then? Well, I would not be surprised to see flights, probably operated for Alaska Airlines by Horizon, to Portland on Dash-8s (Q400s). How many per day? That depends. It’s nigh impossible to actually find solid demographic data on who would go north to fly to Portland. We can assume a potential catchment area, but I hate making statements without actual data. Let’s assume that Alaska will operate roughly two flights a day (one in the morning and one in the evening) to either capture or create a market for business flyers.

Two Q400s a day (one on weekends) is not going to be enough to pay back the investment costs of a passenger terminal. So let’s look at the MD-80 in the room. What airline plays outside the game, but still makes money? What airline loves to fly out of seemingly distant secondary fields to leisure markets? Allegiant, of course! Allegiant is the perfect airline to help get the new passenger market at Paine Field established. While the airport has yet to even establish a category of passenger landing fees, or support charges, we can assume that they will be priced lower than its southern neighbor. Music to Allegiant’s ears.

Could Allegiant start flying their Airbus aircraft to Boeing's main airport? Photo: Bill Word | Flickr CC

Could Allegiant start flying their Airbus aircraft to Boeing’s main airport? Photo: Bill Word | Flickr CC

Allegiant will, of course, fly to their gambit of leisure destinations at their strange frequencies – but they know both what they can do for Paine Field, and how they can shake up the leisure/vacation market that Southwest currently has a lock on out of SeaTac.

Will Southwest fight back with flights out of Paine Field itself? I, honestly, doubt this. The airport may just not have a large enough passenger terminal to sustain many flights.

Either way, more choice for consumers as to where to fly from is never a bad thing.

CONTRIBUTOR - SEATTLE, WA. Bernie has traveled around the world to learn about, experience, and photograph different types of planes. He will go anywhere to fly on anything. He spent four years in Australia learning about how to run an airline, while putting his learning into practice by mileage running around the world. You can usually find Bernie in his natural habitat: an airport. Email: bernie@airlinereporter.com.

New Food Options Coming to a United Club Near You!
Sammy Nishi

And, how about an AvGeek-friendly hotel @ the airport (like Haneda) that would be filled to the gills with those working there and just watching planes?

Maybe 3-5 stories with a large observation deck with ATC audio piped-in?

Paine almost has all that. There is the Hilton Garden Inn with rooms that face the airport: https://www.airlinereporter.com/2013/02/a-review-of-the-hilton-garden-inn-at-paine-field/

Then you have the Strato Deck of the Future of Flight right next door.

All I want is a bar with he view of the airport!

David, AirlineReporter

manuel vieira ribeiro

Is the Strato Deck free,or do you have to buy entry to museum?
Is it available anytime?

Plane-Crazy Joe

Manuel, here’s the website of the FoF:


Unfortunately, the FoF recently imposed an Admission Charge to the Strato Deck! The center’s director told me the revenue was needed to pay staff HIGHER wages!

I’ve spent many enjoyable hours spotting on the Strato Deck, over the years! Pity the FoF has now imposed a charge! Depending on how many times you want to spot from the deck, you may find that becoming a member of the FoF’s association would cost you LESS?!


Haha, be cheeky if Allegiant shows up to Paine field using A319/20s! 🙂

This is great, but expected news! There are multiple perfect locations, definitely one being the west side of the runway between the HFF and Future of FlighT

So glad that this is happening. Whatever happened to talks about opening up a passenger terminal at Boeing Field?

Last I heard about it, Southwest was proposing it, due to not being happy with fees at SEA. It appears that things were worked out and haven’t heard a peep since. It is another option, but since BFI is so close to SEA, it would make more sense (IMHO) for Seattle’s secondary airport to be at PAE.

David, AirlineReporter


I’m looking forward to another airport to fly out of…

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