The city of Seattle is getting a new airport.
Thanks to a Federal Aviation Administration decision last week, Paine Field, located in the nearby city of Everett, will open for scheduled passenger flights next month, for the first time in more than 70 years.
The opening had been delayed due to the partial government shutdown, which ended in January after 35 days. The shutdown had put the brakes on anything but essential functions at the FAA.
Flights will begin operating March 4, with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines first out of the gate. United Airlines has also announced plans to serve the airport, starting March 31. By April, the airport expects to have 24 daily flights to nine destinations in the western U.S., including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, as well as to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Portland and Denver. Most of the flights will be aboard regional jets.
The airport, which has a brand new, state-of-the-art terminal with two departure gates, is about 20 miles north of downtown Seattle. Local officials have expressed hope that having an uncrowded alternative to Seattle-Tacoma Airport, known as Sea-tac, will attract more interest from airlines. According to current projections, the airport expects to serve around 600,000 passengers annually.
The airport will also be easier to reach for many travelers, especially for those who live north of Seattle and can typically spend 90 minutes in city traffic getting to the airport, officials said.
The three-letter airport identifier code is PAE.
The airport’s opening is noteworthy for another reason: new airports are a rarity in the U.S., mainly due to strong opposition from local residents. In fact, county officials had been pushing for years to reopen Paine Field, which briefly had civilian flights in the late 1930s before being used for military and industrial purposes. Boeing also used the airfield starting in the 1960s; the first 747 took off from the facility in 1969. However, several local groups passed resolutions opposing any commercial flights out of the airport. The matter inevitably landed in court, and legal battle was only resolved in 2016 when a federal court denied the opponents the chance to appeal the reopening.