United pulls out of Seattle-area’s Paine Field in Pacific Northwest consolidation

Jul 19, 2021

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United Airlines’ route map is losing one of its pins.

The Chicago-based carrier will pull out of Paine Field Airport (PAE) in Everett, Washington, on Oct. 5, when the final flight departs to United’s Denver hub. The move was first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed directly by the airline.

United’s Denver flight was the carrier’s only remaining route to the Seattle-area airport. In February 2020, UA announced that it would end service to PAE from its San Francisco hub, the only other route it flew to the airport.

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All United flights to PAE were operated by the airline’s regional partner Skywest aboard Embraer 175 jets.

In confirming the move to TPG, the airline shared that it’s making the decision due to “demand trends,” with the full statement below.

United has continued to evaluate and adapt its network and based on demand trends, the airline will suspend service from Denver (DEN) to Everett, Washington (PAE), effective Oct. 5, 2021. United will continue to serve the region with non-stop service to Seattle (SEA) from Denver, New York/Newark, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.

Going forward, United flyers headed to the region will need to fly through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

As for Paine Field, this move is bad news for the local regional airport. Paine Field first reopened to commercial operations in March 2019 and was intended to serve as an alternative for people living north of downtown Seattle. Prior to that, the Paine Field had been closed to commercial traffic for decades.

Related: Why the new Paine Field Airport is a passenger’s dream

Until March 2019, residents in Snohomish County and the surrounding areas previously had to drive nearly 40 miles south to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to fly out of the region.

Of the major U.S. airlines, only Alaska and United set up shop in Paine Field. With the latter carrier discontinuing flights, Alaska will have a monopoly on the airport.

In fact, Alaska, contrary to United’s latest move, recently boosted options on its service to Paine Field. The carrier announced a new seasonal route there, to Tucson, Arizona (TUS), that’ll take off on Nov. 19. Alaska also shared that it’ll resume its full schedule of 18 daily nonstops from Paine Field by spring 2022, if not earlier.

(Image of Paine Field courtesy of the airport)

“The airport in Everett, north of Seattle, remains very popular with our guests,” Alaska’s latest press release said, underscoring the airline’s confidence in Paine Field.

Alaska Airlines, being the hometown carrier based in Seattle, likely has an easier time marketing its service to the local community than United or other entrants. Of course, it’s possible that another airline could fill United’s gap. Until then, however, Denver will remain unserved from Paine Field.

Paine Field first started commercial service in 1939 before being converted to military use during World War II. Efforts to return the airport to commercial service started in earnest during the 1980s. Not until 2015 with a new public-private partnership did those efforts begin to become a reality.

Propeller, the airport’s developer, shared the following statement about United’s move with TPG,

Carriers are making post pandemic adjustments to their schedules and markets, so this is not surprising news. Paine Field continues to enjoy strong passenger demand, our flights are departing full, and our hometown carrier Alaska Airlines remains committed. We are excited about Alaska’s new routes to Boise and Tucson starting later this year. We’ve had conversations with other carriers interested in starting service and remain confident that we will be back at full steam later this year.

Production shift: Boeing to move all 787 ‘Dreamliner’ production from Everett to South Carolina

Other than Alaska Airlines planes, you’ll find plenty of Boeing wide-body jets around Paine Field. That’s because Boeing builds most of its twin-aisle jets there, and PAE is where they take off from when they first take flight.

Until earlier this year, that even included Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners — though production of that model has now been shifted entirely to the company’s assembly line near Charleston, South Carolina.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to show that all of Boeing’s 787 production has been moved to South Carolina. The airport operator also shared a statement with TPG.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy. Additional reporting Edward Pizzarelo. 

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