Inside Paine Field’s New Passenger Terminal North of Seattle

Nov 17, 2018

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Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport (PAE) in Everett, Washington, is the longtime home of Boeing’s Everett Factory – the largest building in the world – but lacked commercial passenger service north of Seattle even though many of the world’s airlines fly to and from the airport for maintenance and deliveries.

That is about to change now as Propeller Airports reached an agreement with Snohomish County to build a two-gate passenger terminal though a Public Private Partnership (P3). On Thursday, Alaska Airlines announced that tickets are on sale for 18 daily nonstop flights between Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport (PAE) in Everett, Washington, and eight West Coast cities.

Alaska’s service is scheduled to start Feb. 11, 2019, subject to government approval, between Everett’s Paine Field and Las Vegas (LAS). Flights to other destinations will roll out not long thereafter: Los Angeles (LAX), Orange County (SNA), Phoenix (PHX), Portland (PDX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC). With six gate slots, United Airlines is also planning to operate flights from PAE to San Francisco (SFO) and Denver (DEN).

I got a tour of the new $40-million dollar airport terminal on Thursday morning for The Points Guy with Propeller Airport’s chief executive officer Brett Smith. Smith wants to create a great passenger experience and “bring civility back” to flying. From an easier check-in experience to not having to drive down to Sea-Tac the night before for fear of missing an important flight due to Seattle’s traffic, passengers can spend less time waiting around the airport.

The airport is located 20 miles north of the Space Needle in downtown Seattle. Parking will cost $40/day for valet, while premium self-parking will be $30/day and $20/day for economy self-parking. (For comparison, self-parking at Sea-Tac is currently $37 for up to 24 hours of “Terminal Direct” parking and $30 for 24 hours of general parking.) There will also be options for concierge services and Propeller Airports is looking at using technology such as an RFID tag or license plate readers to make the process even more seamless for frequent travelers as they arrive and depart.

For budget-conscious passengers and employees the Swift Green Line powered by Community Transit will offer a public transit option with rapid bus service between Canyon Park/Bothell and Boeing/Paine Field every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes at night and on weekends.

For those looking to use rideshare services, Uber and Lyft will be supported as well. Details are in the works with major rental car providers for rental car options.

The terminal was designed by Fentress Architects – known for Denver International and Seoul Incheon – with an attention to detail found in materials such as glass imported from Germany and an acoustic ceiling in the check-in area from Switzerland. Smith is attentive to such details — down to the level of gloss for the polished concrete floor — so agents will be able to communicate easily with passengers.

The exact placement and layouts of check-in kiosks will be analyzed with airlines to make sure passengers and baggage can flow smoothly.

The airline counters will feature countertops to be installed soon with marble sourced from Italy.

The main flight display board was still being installed when I visited. It will be programmed to resemble the classic split-flap Solari boards.

Security will feature TSA Pre-Check, but not CLEAR. With only 60 feet from the valet to security it doesn’t seem like such a service would even be necessary.

Walking up the stairs or the accessible ramp from security you are welcomed into the main terminal “living room” space with views of the tarmac. On either side of this main space are each of the two gates along with additional seating in front of those gates.

This space reminded me of an international business class lounge, with comfortable seating and fireplaces.

Dividers will be installed along the couch to give passengers more personal space.

The display cases will be filled with more memorabilia from the airport’s history but already feature photographs from the WWII era of soldiers at the airport.

A model featuring the first Boeing 747 livery, which took flight from Paine Field on February 9, 1969.

So while there won’t be any “lounges” for credit card holders or airline clubs, I can see this being a better overall environment where essentially the entire terminal feels like a lounge. Hopefully this would be better than my experience Thursday afternoon at Sea-Tac, where I found people waiting outside to enter a crowded Amex Centurion Lounge and was told I’d have to wait 3 hours prior to departure (and then told to wait another 15 minutes after returning) before entering. Likewise, with an airport such as this people won’t be waiting for long layovers for connecting flights. Those departing should be able to arrive just minutes and not hours before a departing flight, further reducing congestion.

The display cases will be filled with more memorabilia from the history of the airport originally built in 1936 as part of the Works Project Administration (WPA).

Opposite the main window of the air field will be the Upper Case wine bar that will be installed, left, as well as table seating.

Orchids stood on some of the tables along with reading material. Additional small tables may be installed in some seating areas to give passengers a place for beverages or laptops.

The materials of these low chairs felt soft to the touch, with power ports hidden alongside the tables. I could easily see myself relaxing in one for a while, watching a variety of aircraft visit Boeing.

Closer to the gates is more traditional style seating with a total of 325 seats available for passengers – all available with power outlets. I found these seats comfortable and not too stiff.

The power options even include USB-C power ports at these seats with TUF USB Type A+C ports to enable fast charging.

While much of the terminal looks finished food and beverage facilities including a bar and restaurant are still being installed.

Seattle based Beecher’s will provide food and beverage, with a Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Cafe serving grilled-to-order sandwiches, hot soups and Beecher’s “World’s Best” mac & cheese.

Another view of the tarmac from the A1 gate seating area.

Propeller Airports’ CEO Brett Smith talked about the decision to use jet bridges with windows, in favor of their design as well as being less stressful and confining to wait in when boarding the aircraft – even though they cost more.

While much of the terminal is complete there is still work to be finished before flights start. And if you look very carefully you can see the Boeing Dreamlifter on the horizon!

Looking across from one jet bridge to another.

Above will be the Upper Case wine bar, which will feature local Pacific Northwest wines, a variety of cocktails and the ability to order food from Beecher’s cafe.

Smith plans to keep little touches like flowers on the countertops – not just for media preview days.

As requested from my post in the TPG Lounge there are indeed refillable water bottle stations.

Bathrooms are all individual rooms rather than traditional stalls, with ADA compliant facilities.

Automated security exit gates.

When you disembark your flight the goal is to have you from the plane to your car in less than five minutes.

In the baggage claim area you can check in with the concierge while valet parked cars will be angle-parked, waiting for passenger’s return. Smith envisions the ability to have your groceries waiting for you at the airport via an online grocery service, rather than coming home to an empty refrigerator. In the meantime, Cafe Vita will also have grab-and-go options for food, coffee and hand pulled espresso drinks in the arrival area.

Smith, above, talked about how he believes success for this project means making the experience the best it possibly can be for passengers and is open to hearing feedback and suggestions. We even talked about how the credit card advertisements from airlines onboard can at times reach an absurd level. And while he has no control over what happens on board the aircraft, he is aware that any sort of advertising inside the terminal has to be done carefully as to not stress passengers out and visually assault them. While food and beverage options are under construction, I asked if he had looked into offering a restaurant dining credit program via Priority Pass, Amex or other premium membership cards and Smith sounded interested in exploring what could be done there.

While saving time in traffic will be the most important factor for many, perhaps the greatest draw for some #AVGeeks will be the chance to see aircraft under construction like this USAF KC-46 refueling tanker sitting on the tarmac – while a Cessna 172N passes by.

Do you live north of Seattle and look forward to flying from Paine Field? Let us know what questions you might have and your impressions of the terminal in the comments below.

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