Alaska Airlines Delays Paine Field Flights Due To Government Shutdown

It looks like the government shutdown is now impacting the opening date of an airport.

Paine Field’s planned opening date

We’re supposed to be just weeks away from commercial flights launching from Paine Field-Snohomish County Airport.

Rendering of new Paine Field Terminal

Paine Field is home to Boeing’s Everett Factory, and up until now hasn’t been used for commercial flights. However, airlines started to see the potential for the airport, given how many residents there are North of Seattle (more than a million people live in the North Sound). Offering service out of this airport could save many people over an hour on their airport commute. Furthermore, SeaTac Airport is nearing capacity.

The airport has seen significant delays in opening, especially due to the FAA requiring a new environmental impact assessment for the airport. Until recently it looked like they had made good progress on that, and the airport was close to opening.

Alaska Airlines was supposed to launch flights from the airport as of February 11, 2019, while United Airlines was supposed to launch flights as of March 31, 2019. Those are the only two airlines that will offer flights there for now.

Unfortunately this timeline has now been pushed back.

Alaska Airlines is delaying Paine Field flights

Alaska Airlines has announced that they’re pushing back their Paine Field launch from February 11 to March 4, 2019. As they describe the situation:

Several key groups within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which conduct crucial certification and oversight work required for the start of commercial air service at Paine Field, are subject to furloughs because of the government shutdown. The FAA’s work on the environmental assessment continues. However, essential work groups within the FAA are furloughed and further delays are expected if the shutdown continues.

For those booked out of Paine Field between February 11 and March 4, Alaska is offering three options:

  • A full refund
  • Being rebooked on a flight out of Paine Field on March 4 or later
  • Being rebooked on a similar flight out of SeaTac

I appreciate Alaska’s transparency here with how they’re doing this. They admit that even the March 4 date isn’t a sure bet, and for that matter it could be that the airport is operational before then. However, they decided that this was just the best option for now. As they explain it:

It’s still not clear when the government shutdown will end. Why was March 4 selected as the new start of service date?

It’s a judgment call on our part because we don’t know when the government shutdown will end. We selected a new date for start of service that could allow time for a resolution, but not too far out in case the shutdown suddenly ended. We’re hopeful our operations at Paine Field will get up and running soon and we can get our guests going places.

Bottom line

So many people have been excited about Paine Field’s new commercial flights, though it looks like we’ll have to wait even longer for that, which is unfortunate. It also puts Alaska in a tough situation, since they had already started selling seats. Delaying flights by a few weeks seems like a smart move — hopefully they don’t have to push it back further.

If you were impacted by the delayed opening, which of the rebooking options did you choose?

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