Paine Field plans to suspend passenger service from May 22 to July 31 for aircraft ramp maintenance and repairs amid a huge drop in demand for air travel tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Everett airport’s passenger terminal operator announced late Friday.
“The travel industry has never faced an economic challenge of this magnitude,” Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, said in a news release. “We are going to use this temporary disruption to the advantage of Paine Field and our airline partners by completing necessary infrastructure improvements faster than we would have been able to while the terminal was open and flight operations were taking place.”
Initially, a Propeller spokesman said, the work — which includes replacing ramp asphalt with more durable concrete — was slated for a phased approach over four months, from June through September. The condensed work schedule was coordinated with Alaska Airlines and United Airlines — the two carriers sharing the year-old Paine Field passenger terminal — and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, Propeller said.
The spokesman said Propeller was paying for the work but declined to disclose the cost.
Alaska Airlines, which on Friday reduced its flight schedule at Paine Field to one daily departure, to Phoenix, was supportive of the repairs.
“The airport has a unique opportunity to consolidate and accelerate several smaller construction projects into a larger project that will ultimately impact fewer passengers for a shorter period of time,” Matthew Shelby, Alaska’s managing director of airport real estate, said in a statement. “Because much of the work is safety related and otherwise highly impactful to the operation, we can appreciate why they would want to do this now, at a time when traffic is down and that impact is greatly reduced.”
Alaska said it will work with passengers who will be affected by the Paine Field closure, including rebooking their travel through Sea-Tac International Airport.
Alaska’s cutback in Paine Field departures temporarily ended service to San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego. It followed mid-April eliminations of six of 10 destinations the Seattle-based airline served from Everett, as part of a broad-based flight schedule reduction of about 70%.
“Our first year of operations in Everett went very well. Then so much changed,” Alaska Airlines spokesman Ray Lane said in an email before Propellor’s announcement. “There’s little doubt these are challenging times for airlines and airports. Drastic measures are being taken that seemed unimaginable just a few months ago. If we need to temporarily suspend service at an airport, it’s something we never take lightly.”
United Airlines, which shares a year-old Paine Field passenger terminal with Alaska Airlines, could not be reached for comment on whether it planned to alter its schedule there.
Before the pandemic, the two carriers were flying near the airport’s federally approved capacity of 24 departures and 24 arrivals a day, according to The (Everett) Herald.
About two weeks ago, The Seattle Times reported that Propeller Airports had asked the FAA if it could shut down Paine Field’s passenger terminal to carry out ramp repairs, given minimal passenger traffic amid the pandemic. At the time, Propellor’s management said the request had been turned down.