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Paine Field
An artist’s conception shows Alaska Airlines planes at Everett’s Paine Field passenger terminal. (Propeller Airports Illustration)

The much-anticipated first commercial airline flights from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., have been postponed until March 4 at the earliest, due to the partial government shutdown.

Alaska Airlines had been planning to start service at Paine Field on Feb. 11, pending government approval. But it turns out that the previous sentence’s dependent clause carried more than the usual weight.

“Several key groups within the Federal Aviation Administration, which conduct crucial certification and oversight work required for the start of commercial air service at Paine Field, are subject to furloughs because of the government shutdown,” Alaska Airlines explained today in a blog posting. “The FAA’s work on the environmental assessment continues. However, essential work groups within the FAA are furloughed and further delays are expected if the shutdown continues.”

In light of the snag, Alaska said “the responsible action” was to postpone the start of scheduled service until March 4 — again, “subject to receipt of all required government approvals.”

Alaska acknowledged that selecting the new date was a judgment call, and that the airline couldn’t predict precisely when the approvals would come. The shutdown is currently in its 32nd day.

“We know our guests who purchased tickets to and from Paine Field will be disappointed by this delay – so are we,” Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines’ chief commercial officer, said in the blog posting. “There are certain things that are simply out of our control. We apologize if your travel plans need to change.”

Here’s the advice that Alaska has for travelers who have purchased tickets for Everett flights between Feb. 11 and March 4:

  • Such guests should be receiving an email telling them they’re automatically being confirmed on a new flight on the same travel date from Sea-Tac International Airport. The new flight should be for a time that’s closest to their original Paine Field flight.
  • If guests wish to keep Paine Field as their departing or arriving airport for a new flight on March 4 or later, they can call 1-800-252-7522.
  • If they prefer not to travel, a refund can be arranged by calling 1-800-252-7522.

Alaska says fees will be waived in all these cases.

United Airlines, the other operator cleared to use Paine Field, is planning to start flights on March 31 and has not yet announced any delay.

Alaska is planning service between Everett and airports in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, California’s Orange County, Phoenix, Portland in Oregon, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. United has flights to Denver and San Francisco. For both airlines, the Paine Field flights are expected to be on Embraer 175 jets.

Paine Field service is seen as a potential time-saver for travelers in Seattle area who have been frustrated by high traffic volumes on the way to Sea-Tac and at the airport itself. The time-saving angle should be particularly appealing for folks in neighborhoods north of Seattle’s urban core, and the flights to San Francisco and San Jose should be particularly appealing to the tech community.

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