United Airlines throws in the towel on San Francisco-Paine Field route

Feb 3, 2020

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United Airlines is calling it quits on one of its routes to Paine Field near Seattle, ending San Francisco service after less than a year.

The Star Alliance carrier will end its three daily flights between Everett’s Paine Field (PAE) and San Francisco (SFO) on March 5, according to Cirium schedule data and confirmed by United. United has offered service on the route with 76-seat Embraer 175s since March 31, 2019.

United will continue to serve Paine Field, which is located 23 miles north of downtown Seattle, with expanded service from Denver (DEN). It will add a third daily flight on the route on Feb. 13, said United spokesman Jonathan Guerin.

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Best known as the home of Boeing’s assembly lines for the 747, 767, 777 and 787 jets, Everett and Paine Field reopened to commercial air service last March. Alaska Airlines and United serve the airport with up to 24 flights a day. Alaska operates 18 of those flights, connecting Everett to 10 cities, including Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco and Spokane (GEG).

Related: Alaska Airlines Expands Paine Field Map, Adds 10th Nonstop Route


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United’s San Francisco flights have been less popular than others at Paine Field. During the first eight months of service through October 2019, the flights were only 52% full on average, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data via Cirium. By comparison, Alaska’s competing San Francisco-Paine Field flights were on average 72% full, and United’s Denver-Paine Field flights were nearly 83% full.

While the number of passengers on any given flight, or the “load factor,” does not determine how profitable it is, 52% is low by industry standards. United’s systemwide load factor was nearly 86% for the same March-October period.

(Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, via Cirium)


United’s decision to cancel the Paine Field route was part of its continuous review of demand in the markets it serves, said Guerin.

The airline declined to say how it will use its remaining rights for three flights at Paine Field. United has limited options. It can use the rights to add service — either another increase to Denver or on an new route — lease them to another carrier, or return them to private terminal operator Propeller Airports for reallocation.

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

Featured image courtesy of Paine Field.

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