MIAMI – Paine Field Airport (PAE) will open up its doors today as the first commercial flight to Portland (PDX) takes off.

First constructed in the 1930s, PAE has been an industrial, military, and general aviation airport for most of its existence.

Also home to Boeing’s assembly lines, this airport has been the birthplace of planes as big as the 747.

This airport is set to become a major alternative to passengers who were forced to commute to the larger and busier Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Located about 30 miles north of the Seattle metropolitan area, and roughly 50 minutes away from SEA, the two-gate airport is ready to open its doors today.

The opening of PAE, which has been designed to hold as many as 24 flights per day, will allow local passengers to spare the trouble of commuting the busy traffic into the Sea-Tac area.

Alaska Airlines will be the first carrier to launch services out of the airport today on services to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix-Sky Harbor, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose, earmarking a rapid initial expansion.

The terminal was designed and built through agreements with Propeller Airports and the Snohomish County.

United will also join the service offering to Denver and San Francisco launching at the end of this month.

Brett Smith, the CEO of Propeller Airports, admits that the first commercial flight from PAE “is the realization of five years of hard work and more than a decade of commitment by Propeller to the idea of privately developing a commercial airport in a major metro area with a hub that is at capacity.”

“For the flying public this is about more options with tremendous convenience and fewer headaches, and important to us – it represents a restoration of civility to the airport experience. We’re excited to share that vision with passengers starting today,” Smith said.

Likewise, Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines CCO, noted that the airline “greatly appreciates the tremendous partnership with Propeller Airports to bring commercial air service to Paine Field. This is a historic moment.”

“We’re very excited to be able to offer our guests 18 daily nonstop flights between Everett and eight highly popular West Coast destination,” he said.

Also, Alaska Airlines will offer connectivity to its international gateway airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “We can connect travelers from North Puget Sound both domestically and internationally with nearly all of our 15 Global Partners to 900 destinations worldwide,” Harrison added.

A Delayed Opening

Back in January, Alaska Airlines issued a memo through its internal blog confirming that the first day of operations out of its new Paine Field (PAE) passenger terminal had been postponed until March 4.

“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,” said the airline.

A rendering of the commercial airport terminal at Paine Field in Everett. (Photo: Propeller Airports)

Alaska Airlines reckoned it was “a tough decision” to postpone the launch of services to this airport, which was originally set for February 11. However, Alaska Airlines saw it as a “responsible action.”

On top of the delayed Alaska Airlines opening, Southwest Airlines decided to ax its plans of flying to PAE.

The low-cost carrier changed its plans due to “business considerations”, then transferring its five daily slots to Alaska Airlines.

Today, Alaska Airlines is planning to operate up to 18 daily nonstop flights instead of the original 13 it had filed for.

Alaska as a result increased frequencies on services to Las Vegas (one to two), Los Angeles (two to four), Portland (three to four) and San Diego (one to two).

Success from the likes of Alaska and United out of Paine Field will be something other carriers will be watching out for to ascertain certain levels of demand.

If it is high, and if market research on unserved routes proves popular, then we could see Paine Field becoming even more busy, even on top of the facilities at Boeing.