United Airlines plans to suspend service out of Everett’s Paine Field airport beginning in early October, the airline has confirmed.
In a statement, a United spokesperson said that the airline has “continued to evaluate and adapt its network” and that the decision is “based on demand trends.”
The airline operates one daily United Express flight between Denver International Airport and Paine Field, which will be discontinued beginning Oct. 5, according to the statement. Travel website The Points Guy first reported the news Sunday.
United said it will continue to serve the region with nonstop service to Seattle from Denver, New York/Newark, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
John Gallagher, a spokesperson for Propeller Airports, which designed, built and operates the 2-year-old terminal north of Seattle, said in a statement the move was not a surprise because “carriers are making post-pandemic adjustments to their schedules and markets.”
Alaska Airlines is now the only carrier serving the airport.
“Paine Field continues to enjoy strong passenger demand, our flights are departing full, and our hometown carrier Alaska Airlines remains committed,” Gallagher said in the statement. He added that the airport was “excited” about Alaska’s new routes to Boise and Tucson, which are expected to start later this year.
“We’ve had conversations with other carriers interested in starting service and remain confident that we will be back at full steam later this year,” he said.
Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, on Tuesday said “many of the small airports in this country are going to struggle over the next couple months until airlines work out the new reality for them.”
Still, Smith felt optimistic about the airport’s recovery.
“My confidence level in this project and what we’re doing has not changed,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, the chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, said he was disappointed to hear the news.
“Paine Field’s commercial air service is a vital part of the regional economy and supports tens of thousands of jobs here in Northwest Washington,” Larsen said in a statement. “As the nation works to emerge from the pandemic, I will continue to push for robust federal investment in long-term economic development to support local jobs, boost recovery and ensure Northwest Washington remains the aerospace capital of the world.”
The Paine Field commercial terminal opened in March 2019 and was handling 24 arrivals and 24 departures a day before the pandemic paralyzed air travel. The terminal was a huge hit in its first year, becoming a favorite of travelers around Snohomish County and Seattle’s north end who were relieved to no longer have to fight traffic down to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
But passenger traffic went from 3,000 a day to 80 during the depth of the pandemic and was “losing a massive amount of money,” Smith said in May.
On Tuesday, Smith said the airport now sees six departures and six arrivals per day, most of which are at nearly full capacity. With each flight able to handle 76 passengers, roughly 900 passengers come and go daily.
United, like other airlines, has struggled during the last year and a half, with travel rates down and COVID-19 restrictions in place. In March, the airline announced it was closing down a Seattle base for flight attendants, partly because of the operation’s higher-than-expected costs.
Staff reporter Akash Pasricha contributed to this story, which also includes information from The Seattle Times archives.