Alaska Airlines' planned service out of Everett carries benefits and risks. What's your preference?

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Alaska Airlines announced this week it would begin passenger service from Everett’s Paine Field next year, probably to popular destinations in California and Oregon.

It’s a smart move in Alaska’s ongoing battle for traffic with Delta Air Lines and also positions Alaska as the go-to carrier as the region grows. It’s also a defensive gambit to get to Paine Field ahead of Allegiant Air or some other low-cost small rival. Depending on the destination, it could provide people north of Lynnwood with a convenient airport vs. landlocked Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

But this is also a risky proposition. Until light rail arrives in Everett, passengers are car-encumbered and dependent on Interstate 5. Also, I’m hard pressed to think of many regions of our population with more than one commercial airport. As of 2014, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan division had a population of 2.8 million. St. Louis, about the same size, has its major airport at Lambert Field, but a secondary one in nearby Illinois (MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, served by Allegiant with flights to Florida).

On the other hand, Phoenix, with a metro population of 4.6 million, has remained loyal to Sky Harbor International Airport. Although the Phoenix Gateway Airport promises flights from Allegiant and WestJet, it has struggled to make a go of it. Sky Harbor is centrally located (two miles from downtown), with freeway and light-rail connections. It works to keep costs down so a major carrier such as Southwest Airlines isn’t tempted to jump to Gateway. Also, Gateway is isolated on a former Air Force Base in southeast Mesa.

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So what’s your inclination?

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