Opening up Boeing Field as a commercial airport for Southwest Airlines is a terrible idea. A new passenger flight path of 80 takeoffs and...
Opening up Boeing Field as a commercial airport for Southwest Airlines is a terrible idea.
A new passenger flight path of 80 takeoffs and landings a day will be created over neighborhoods that today are relatively quiet. The noise over Magnolia, Beacon Hill, West Seattle, Queen Anne, Ballard, Fremont, Tukwila and Skyway will only grow over the years with additional passenger flights. Families that bought houses to avoid the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport flight path will now be living under the new Boeing Field flight path.
This proposal is also bad for business.
The Seattle area is served by two excellent airports, Sea-Tac and Boeing Field. Sea-Tac is our passenger airport — connecting Puget Sound residents and businesses with the world. The official name of Boeing Field is King County International Airport, and it is owned by the taxpayers of King County.
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Boeing Field is our “industrial airport,” offering reasonably priced space to small aircraft, company jets, helicopters, United Parcel Service, the military and Boeing. Thousands of people work at this industrial airport, providing services that support our region’s economy.
Opening up Boeing Field to passenger service could “gentrify” our blue-collar airport. It will destabilize the air industry in King County, all under the promise that new jobs will be created and consumers will benefit.
Yep, it sounds like the promise of Wal-Mart.
When Wal-Mart approaches a new town in America, the county commissioners get really excited. Their eyes grow wide as saucers over the prospects of new property taxes. Wal-Mart builds a shiny new superstore, and the residents flock there for the low prices. Jobs are “created” as Grandpa is hired to greet the shoppers as they arrive.
But somewhere across town, a perfectly good grocery store and department store soon die. Jobs are lost when those stores close, unable to compete with Wal-Mart’s cut-rate pricing. The community now has overcapacity of commercial space. That discarded shopping mall lies deserted for years, a reminder of the short-term thinking of those gullible county commissioners.
To its credit, Southwest Airlines is a union carrier, offering strong wages and benefits to a skilled and committed work force. But the fact is that the cut-throat competition in the airline industry has not been good for its workforce. Just ask an Alaska Airlines baggage handler who was fired last month, or a United Airlines flight attendant who has lost her pension.
If Southwest pulls out of Sea-Tac, the airport will not become an abandoned shopping mall. But the financial impacts on the remaining tenants will become severe. The airlines operating out of Sea-Tac agreed to fund a $4 billion investment to modernize the airport.
Southwest Airlines voted for the deal, and now wants to back out, leaving the remaining airlines to cover the Southwest portion of the costs. Fees at Sea-Tac will go up for the airlines keeping their word, while Southwest escapes to Boeing Field to pay far-lower costs, at a facility a half-hour closer to downtown. Businesses operating at Boeing Field would be forced out over time, as more land and more landings are devoted to passenger flights.
Supporters of the Southwest move claim that Boeing Field is in financial trouble. Boeing Field is financed by ground leases, building rent and fees on fuel, landings and aircraft storage. For nine years, Boeing Field and its companies have been in my County Council district, and just last year we raised landing fees for the first time in 27 years, and fuel fees for the first time in 22 years. These fees are still below those charged by comparable urban airports in the nation.
Finally, the argument is made that the consumers will win. My son just booked a one-way flight to Washington, D.C., for $108.84 — out of Sea-Tac Airport. Does any sane person think air travel in America is too expensive?
The proposal to add a new flight path over Seattle does not add up, and should be rejected by King County.
Metropolitan King County Councilman Dwight Pelz represents the 5th District, which includes parts of Seattle, Tukwila, Renton, Skyway, Boulevard Park and the Cascade Vista area of the Renton Highlands.