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The interior of Paine Field Airport in Seattle. There are chairs, tables, and tall floor to ceiling windows overlooking a runway.

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Paine Field Airport: Everything you need to know

Our guide to the Puget Sound’s newest commercial airport

Courtesy of Propeller Airports

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, ninth-busiest airport in the country, used to be the only major commercial airport serving the entire metro, but that just changed. Paine Field, which has been an industrial and military airport since it was first constructed in the 1930s, is finally hosting passenger flights. It’s not as big as Sea-Tac—Paine, airport code PAE, handles 24 flights a day compared to Sea-Tac’s 600—but it’s set to be a busy airport in its own right, with both Alaska and United operating out of the facility.

These flights don’t go everywhere, but they do reach some popular destinations: Portland, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, and Palm Springs. Flights to Spokane were recently added to the mix.

At this point, we’re all so used to Sea-Tac that it’s a little surreal having another option (although people living in the northern parts of the Sound are probably rejoicing). If you have a flight coming up at this new option, or you’re just curious, we’ve assembled everything we know.

Getting to and from the airport

Public transportation

Unlike Sea-Tac, Link Light Rail is not an option for getting to Paine. But the good news is that it was already a major Boeing employment center, there’s some transit to the area.

Everett Transit Route 8 stops at the terminal’s front door. Riders from elsewhere can transfer at the Everett Station or the new Seaway Transit Center—designed to “serve as a hub for Paine Field-area bus service.” Seattle riders can take Sound Transit 512 to Everett Station. If the timing matches up, weekday commuter routes are also an option: either the Sounder train to Everett Station, or the 513 to Seaway.

Community Transit’s Green Line—a bus rapid transit line that runs more often than the 8—drops off at Airport Road and 100th, within walking distance of the terminal. Riders can transfer to that one at Seaway or Bothell’s Canyon Park Park and Ride, or hop on it as it runs through Mill Creek. Riders from Shoreline can transfer to the Green Line from the Blue Line, which runs between Everett Station and Aurora Village and through Edmonds.

Community Transit 105 also drops off at 100th and Airport.

Take a car

A Lyft from downtown Seattle can run you between 40 and 50 bucks, but if you already live north, it’s less of a hurdle, with fares between $30 and $40 from Lake City. A yellow cab from downtown is likely going to run you more than $50, but again, it’s going to be less than, say, a yellow cab from Bitter Lake.

Unfortunately, since Paine is small and new, there’s not the same prevalence of flat rates—but maybe someday.

Via Propeller Airports

Driving to the airport

Driving is always an option, although, like with Sea-Tac, parking will cost you. Rates are between $20 and $40 a day, depending on whether you’re going economy—a little farther from the airport than the others—premium, or valet. For shorter-term parking, premium and economy cost $5 every 30 minutes, and valet costs $20 for up to three hours.

Like with other airports, those getting a ride can get dropped off curbside.

Biking to the airport

Good news: There’s bike parking at Paine Field! It’s in front of the taxi and rental car building.

Getting through security

There’s literally just one security checkpoint, since this is an itty-bitty airport, but the good news is that it just serves 24 flights per day, so it’s not going to be too crammed—at least, ideally.

Other than that, it’s the usual drill you’d go through at any other airport: shoes, tiny bottles of liquid, etc.

Getting to your gate

When describing Sea-Tac’s gates, we used words like “tentacles.” It’s much more straightforward at Paine: There are two gates, three if you count 2A and 2B as separate. They even share one departure lounge between the boarding areas. Everything is shiny, new, and straightforward, with no trams required.

Via Propeller Airports

Where to eat

The iconic local cheesemakers at Beecher’s are handling all the concessions at Paine Field, and have assembled three concession stops that pretty much run the whole spectrum of airport dining: a coffee stand, a bar, and a more classic Beecher’s eatery.

Caffe Vita: Just as Beecher’s teamed up with popular local roaster Cafe Vita for its Sea-Tac presence, the company has tapped the coffee purveyor for a small pre-security counter, with the usual offerings like pastries and a full selection of espresso drinks. It has a June 25 opening date.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese: This is the more classic Beecher’s presence, with soup, sandwiches, and the famous mac ‘n’ cheese, with grab-and-go options designed to take on your flight. It officially opened in late June.

Upper Case Bar: Located along the departure lounge, Upper Case has a wide beverage selection, including flights of Northwest wines, a local beer selection, and signature craft cocktails, plus a food menu with sandwiches, wraps, salads, and cheese boards. There’s at least one vegan option here.

What to do

An interior in Paine Field Airport in Seattle. There are chairs that are facing floor to ceiling windows overlooking an airplane runway. The ceilings are wooden and the chairs are leather. Courtesy of Propeller Airports

Paine Field is still really new and small, so there’s not a ton to do—but there aren’t a lot of people to compete with for Wi-Fi bandwidth (which is free), and every lounge seat in the midcentury-inspired waiting area has an electrical outlet attached.

Art at Paine Field

The idea behind Paine Field’s design was to have a smaller, more relaxed atmosphere, so of course art is going to be a part of it. The collection isn’t as robust as Sea-Tac’s yet, but the Everett Herald reported on four displays curated by Propeller Airports CEO Brett Smith and the vision behind them.

Art includes three sculptures: One of the airport’s namesake Topliff Olin Paine (more on him below), a steel red check in the parking lot, and a curvy, abstract blue sculpture called “Aurora” to the left of the terminal. Finally, a walnut-and-glass display case in the waiting area is full of Paine Field historic momentos, like photographs and model airplanes.

Paine Field history

The airport was originally built as a Works Progress project—a New Deal agency that carried out infrastructure projects like roads, parks, and other public works—starting in 1936. The first plane landed there in 1939: a small, private monoplane. In a big miscommunication, the pilot mistook a signal from the crew to stay away as a go-ahead, but his plane landed fine, anyway.

It was originally intended to be a commercial airport, like this teeny-tiny part of it is now, but World War II pulled the facility into military service. The Army Air Corps took over the field from 1941 to 1946, protecting Boeing Field and the Navy shipyards in Bremerton. It was still hosting the occasional non-military endeavor, though; Alaska Airlines, the flagship provider for the new commercial airport, established repair facilities there in the early 1940s.

Snohomish County was still planning on building a commercial airport after WWII ended, but the military would take back over in 1951 during the Korean War. This time, it would be the Air Force to take over, and the field was renamed as the Paine Air Force Base. The Air Force would stick around for the beginning of the Cold War, and even planned a missile system there that was never completed. The county still owned parts of the airports, though, and started building out industrial facilities.

Paine Field had its biggest non-military claim to fame after the Air Force left in the 1960s, just as Boeing was searching for a facility big enough to build the 747 jumbo jet (and keep building them). Boeing purchased the property just north of the field in 1966, and rolled out the first 747 in 1968, christened with 26 bottles of champagne.

In the 1970s, the military was completely gone and Boeing was firmly rooted in the facility—and, with the field now a major job center, people had started moving to the immediate area around it en masse. And so, in 1978, when Snohomish County leader started once again floating the idea of returning to the original vision of Paine Field as a robust commercial airport, the now-plentiful residents protested, citing noise and public safety concerns.

Paine Field would get a makeover, but Snohomish County had to scrap the idea of turning it into a major airport. Some light traffic activity, like commuter services, was allowed, and some new hangars were built to add utility, but no fully-functional commercial facilities. A noise abatement plan was put in place.

A similar citizen protest, called Save Our Communities, was mounted in the early 1990s, as Snohomish County tried—yet again—to get commercial services going at Paine. But another advocacy group, Fly From Everett, took the opposite stance. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a county process started that would eventually allow commercial flights, updating the plan from the late 1970s and developing short- and long-range plans for the field.

In 2015, the Snohomish County Council approved a lease with Propeller Airports—the company that would eventually build and manage the passenger terminal in a public-private partnership. The lease survived a court challenge later that year, the FAA gave the green light, and Propeller broke ground on the Paine Field terminal in 2017. Alaska Airlines was the first carrier to sign on, followed by United and Southwest, although Alaska would eventually buy out Southwest’s flights.

While flights were supposed to begin in February 2019, a government shutdown delayed some necessary permitting, delaying the grand opening until March 4.

Paine Field

3220 100th Street Southwest, , WA 98204 Visit Website