Eight miles south of downtown Everett and less than 10 minutes off Interstate 5, Paine Field serves the North Puget Sound region of Washington state. It is the closest airport to Seattle’s northern neighborhoods and cities. Downtown Seattle is about a half-hour drive. Paine Field has gained acclaim for its airline passenger terminal that combines modern design and technology with a small airport customer focus allowing passengers to get to and from their flights quickly and in a low-stress environment. Opened in 2019, you could say the terminal was 80 years in the making.
Transportation options at the terminal include taxis, app ride services Uber and Lyft and shuttles. Car rental companies Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise and National provide shuttles from the terminal to their locations. Public transportation is available on Everett Transit Route 8, which serves the airport with a stop at the terminal.
What took so long for the airport to get its first passenger terminal? Originally conceived as one of 10 “super airports” the United States government would build during the Great Depression to spur on the economy, the Works Progress Administration began construction at the “fog free” site in 1936 but before it could be finished, the Army Air Corps arrived in 1939 and a year later took over the field as World War II was escalating. The Army named the airfield after aviator Lt. Topliff O. Paine, an Everett native.
After the war, during the process of turning the airport over to Snohomish County, the Korean War brought the military back and in 1951 the airfield became Paine Air Force Base.
Then in 1966, as the military was once again preparing to vacate the airfield, the Boeing Company announced it selected a site adjacent to Paine Field to build the world’s largest commercial airliners, the Boeing 747. Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Snohomish County liked the idea and agreed to it. The first 747 was rolled out in 1968, the same year the Air Force officially closed its operations on the airfield. After that the airport was used for general aviation as well as Boeing’s continued operations manufacturing airliners.
Talk of bringing commercial airline service to Paine Field surfaced in 1989 and gained momentum about 15 years later. The City of Everett supported the idea but Snohomish County, which owns the airport, was content restricting use to manufacturing and private aircraft. Despite requests from airlines, the county resolved it would not spend money to develop Paine Field as a commercial airport. In 2012, the FAA determined the county was creating a restriction that would jeopardize it from continuing to receive federal funds for the airport.
Enter Propeller Airports, which in 2014 proposed creating a public-private partnership with the county to build and operate a commercial airline terminal at Paine Field. Propeller Airports is a subsidiary of Propeller Investments, a private equity firm that invests in the aerospace and transportation sectors. County officials agreed to the proposal which prompted lawsuits up to and including a 2016 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of commercial service. Construction started in 2017 and the $40 million Passenger Terminal at Paine Field served its first passengers on March 4, 2019.
Described as a boutique facility, the two-gate 30,000-square-foot terminal is designed to be customer-centric, allowing passengers to move through it quickly but in a tranquil environment. The airline check-in lobby is reminiscent of an upscale hotel lobby. Gate areas have a “living room” feel that includes two fireplaces.
Amenities in the terminal include a pre-security outlet of Seattle’s Caffé Vita coffee shop and a post-security café and bar focused on locally sourced food and wine.
Alaska Airlines flights arrive and depart the Paine Field Passenger Terminal using any one of its three gates – Gate 2 is divided as Gate 2A and 2B. (United, the only other airline currently at the airport, also uses the same gates.) Although Paine Field is not a major connecting airport for Alaska, passengers who are making connections can do so without leaving the TSA secure area provided baggage has been checked to the final destination.
On Port Gardner Peninsula at the mouth of the Snohomish River, Everett is a hub for recreational activities from skiing in the winter to water sports in the summer. The nearest ski resort is just over an hour away and the Port of Everett Marina, with almost 2,200 slips, is the largest public marina on the U.S. West Coast. The Everett waterfront is also the headquarters of Naval Station Everett. Thanks to Boeing, the area is a center for aviation enthusiasts. Take the company’s tour and you can say you have been inside the world’s largest building with 4.28 million square feet of floor space and containing 472 million cubic feet by volume, it takes up more than 98 acres.
Get ideas to explore Seattle NorthCountry from the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau here.
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