Plan – Flying out of PAE – Paine Field on Alaska Airlines
On March 4, 2019, Paine Field (also known as Snohomish County Airport) began domestic commercial flight service. Located about 30 miles north of Seattle and 125 miles south of Vancouver, PAE – Paine Field Airport is a good option for those who want to avoid driving in Seattle traffic on their way to SEA – Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC). As we depart on our first flight to San Diego on Alaska Airlines, we will test the airport’s promise of a “Curb to gate in 10 minutes” and share our general impressions of the facilities.
To start, you can fly to 9 destinations on two airlines, Alaska Airlines or United Airlines:
- DEN – Denver, Colorado (United Airlines)
- LAS – Las Vegas, Nevada (Alaska Airlines)
- LAX – Los Angeles, California (Alaska Airlines)
- SNA – Orange County, California (Alaska Airlines)
- PHX – Phoenix, Arizona (Alaska Airlines)
- PDX – Portland, Oregon (Alaska Airlines)
- SAN – San Diego, California (Alaska Airlines)
- SFO – San Francisco, California (Alaska Airlines and United Airlines)
- SJC – San Jose, California (Alaska Airlines)
While flights using the Embraer 175 (E175) and Boeing 737 (B737) have been discussed and approved, so far both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines flights are on the E175.
Capacity and Airport Operations – SEATAC vs PAE:
In the last few years, SEA – Seattle Tacoma Airport has become very busy and so it only makes sense to start commercial service at PAE – Paine Field in Everett for certain routes. There is limited capacity at PAE: for example, SEATAC handles about 600 departures per day and PAE can accommodate a total of 24 departures per day (currently 18 flights per day are scheduled).
Why we’re excited about the Alaska Airlines Flights at PAE:
We’ve been loyal customers to Alaska Airlines for years and it hasn’t been easy to keep flying with them as 2 Canadians based in Vancouver, Canada. In the last few years, Alaska Airlines has drastically reduced their service to/from BLI – Bellingham Airport (located 52 miles south of Vancouver and 95 miles north of Seattle) and to/from YVR – Vancouver International Airport. We suspect the reason for this is the devaluation of the Canadian Dollar which would deter Canadians from traveling to Bellingham to catch a flight and having to keep prices competitive to maintain profitability on the operated flights. Another factor is Air Canada’s purchase and scheduling of the 737 MAX to service the Hawaiian Islands daily non-stop from Vancouver and other destinations in California.
Now, whenever we want to fly on Alaska Airlines, we have to connect through SEA – Seattle from BLI – Bellingham or YVR – Vancouver on flights mostly operated by Horizon Air, or drive down the I-5 to catch a flight out of SEATAC. While the delays and cancellations have improved in the last 1.5 years, there was a time the service was unreliable due to Horizon’s pilot shortage which caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights. Driving to SEATAC due to the traffic on I-5 is also not the best experience as you have to buffer at least 2.5 hours to be on the safe side. We’ve also narrowly missed connections due to the never-ending “flow control” delays into SEATAC.
Having access to flights to destinations we like to visit and/or to connect to other destinations while avoiding SEATAC is something we’re looking forward to and that will help us to continue flying on Alaska Airlines.
We will of course drive as we are coming from Vancouver but depending where you live, you can also take transit, an Uber or Lyft, or even bike. Right now, there is bus service but eventually, one of the Light Rail lines will be extended. Plan your trip and find out more on the Sound Transit website.
There are 3 parking options at Paine Field:
- Valet: $20 for 0-3 hours, $40 daily max. Attendants meet you curb side and park your vehicle.
- Premium: $5 each 30 minutes, $30 daily max. Two uncovered lots adjacent to the terminal entrance.
- Economy/Extended Stay: $5 each 30 minutes, $20 daily max. This parking lot is a 5 minute walk from the terminal entrance.
In comparison, parking at SEATAC ranges from $10.95 to $30 per day, depending on where you park.
The closest hotels to Paine Field are:
- TownePlace Suites by Marriott Seattle Everett/Mukilteo
- Hilton Garden Inn Seattle North/Everett
- Staybridge Suites Seattle North-Everett
Contact the hotels directly to find out about their shuttle options and park and fly packages.
We had already done our check-in online so we bypassed the kiosks and headed straight to the TSA screening area, where 1 of 3 lines was staffed. There isn’t a full TSA PreCheck service but you do get to keep your shoes on and get ahead of the line. I did a quick search on the TSA site, and PAE is not currently listed in the participating airports list but full Pre Check service is planned.
Food and Beverage:
There is one restaurant/bar that provides food and drink right now, it’s called Upper Case (see menu below). It looks very nice but casual and has a good selection of food and beverages at reasonable prices for an airport. I was interested in their salads but didn’t buy anything because we’d be getting a meal on the flight.
Eventually, they will open up a Beecher’s Cheese, a Seattle icon also present at SEATAC that serves its famous Mac & Cheese, grilled sandwiches, and salads.
- Bathroom Facilities: The bathrooms are unisex individual stalls, which are quite nice and provide lots of space as we all know how challenging it can be to bring your bags into tiny stalls at other airports.
- Water fountains/Dispensers: There are both water fountains and water dispensers to refill water bottles.
- Charging Stations: Most seats in the waiting area are equipped with chargers, both USB and plug-in. The airport also offers complimentary WIFI.
- Seating: The seating by the gates is the standard style seating, but there are other chairs by the windows to get a view of the tarmac and other seating with small tables, plants, and coffee table books. There is the standard seating by the gate too. The decor is nice too, it reminds me of an upscale boutique hotel lobby.
- Boarding Gates: The airport has two gates who all use a jet bridge to avoid walking outside and going up and down stairs when boarding the aircraft.
Overall, we were really impressed and enjoyed the experience of flying of out Paine Field, which is a good thing because we have 4 flights departing from here in the next few months and will keep updating this post with new information.
Did we make it to the gate in 10 minutes? Yes we did…even if we parked in the economy lot!
As much as we enjoyed using this facility to catch our flights, there are some downfalls to using this airport. Here is a list of the Pros and Cons associated to flying out of PAE in comparison to SEATAC or YVR.
- Driving Time: It is so much easier to drive to PAE than SEATAC.
- Atmosphere: Even if it was busy when we were there, it didn’t feel chaotic. As mentioned, the hotel lobby style setting makes it one of the nicest regional airports we’ve ever visited.
- Flight Options: For us, we now have more flight options and routes and don’t have to worry about as many connections.
- Transiting Time: Since the parking is close to the terminal and it is quick to get through security, we don’t have to arrive to the airport hours before our departure; we can arrive about 30-45 minutes before boarding.
- Cost of Parking: As there are fewer options, paying $20+ per day to park is a little expensive.
- Food and Beverage: If people are looking for diversity of food and beverage concessions, there isn’t and won’t be a lot here.
- No lounges: There are no airline lounges here but considering how much more difficult it is to get access to the AMEX Centurion Lounge at SEATAC due to crowding, this is not a deal breaker for us.
- Flight Options: In the event that you miss your flight or it is cancelled, there aren’t as many options as SEATAC. This could also make it difficult to catch a connecting flight. For example, when it looked like our flight back to PAE from SAN looked like it was going to get cancelled, we tried to get on the flight through PDX – Portland and then to PAE but there were no seats left on the flight to PAE. Worse case scenario, we were prepared to get on a flight to SEATAC and then Uber to PAE to pick up our car.
Have you flown out of PAE yet? Are you going to try it? Do you prefer larger international airports or smaller regional airports?
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