3 Links I Love: The Paine Field Shuffle, A Hangar Rises to the North, Via’s Troubles

Tickets now on sale for Alaska Airlines flights out of Paine Field – Seattle PI
After long battles commercial air service is finally coming to Paine Field north of Seattle.  Alaska put its flights on sale for travel beginning Feb 11.  This in itself is midly-interesting news, but wait, did Alaska say it would have 18 flights a day? It didn’t have enough gate space at the already-full airport to do that.  So what gives?

Southwest quietly announced in its new schedule release that it has pulled out of Paine entirely and the gate space has gone to Alaska.  (Anyone else want to know what Southwest got in return?) That means Alaska will have the lion’s share of flights with United still expected to fill out the rest.  Alaska is going big here.  I mean, four daily flights to LA?  On the one hand, Alaska keeps Delta out and if this works as planned, it’ll be a big leg up for Alaska in the battle for Seattle.  But if it doesn’t work out, then it’ll just be a big money pit.

New Anchorage Hangar Built to House Two of Our Largest 737s – Alaska Airlines Blog
When I visited Alaska’s Anchorage hangar last year, I marveled at the soaring, pristine wood frame.  Now the new hangar is built, and some of the old wood has been repurposed in the entryway to commemorate the old.  That’s a nice touch, but the future of the old hangar is still unclear.

Via cancels 50 percent of flights – Parkersburg News and Sentinel
Seems like things aren’t going so well for Via Air.  We’ve heard this story before, I’m afraid.  Finding a reliable, stable operator on these small routes is a challenge.

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20 Responses to 3 Links I Love: The Paine Field Shuffle, A Hangar Rises to the North, Via’s Troubles

  1. Alex Hill says:

    How big an investment does AS have at Paine Field? Presumably if it doesn’t work they can reduce the schedule or even pull out entirely mostly by reassigning aircraft?

    • CF says:

      Alex – I don’t know that it has any investment. It just has gate time which is currently at a premium. It can walk away if it doesn’t work, but then Delta might feel compelled to go in.

  2. James says:

    I think WN quitting PAE is that tail-end of the deal where AS quit LGA/DCA from DAL. I always thought that deal was uneven, with WN coming out way ahead AS. Now knowing that WN will no longer fly to PAE, things are looking a lot more equitable.

    My two cents.

  3. Brad says:

    Via Air is a company I’ve been fascinated with (CalPac too) and anyone with a sense of airline history has seen this play out before. It’s difficult enough to be the new, small, independent airline on the block but it’s even more difficult when you’re trying to fill an RJ at a discount. From the looks of their website, they’ve eliminated any trace of the EAS routes from their route map. I’d be curious to see what kind of money they’re making out of AUS & SFB.

    Cranky – Do you have any plans to cover Via or California Pacific any further? I loved the interview you did with the GLO CEO. These type of operations are what the avgeek in me is most interested in and I loved getting to peak behind the curtain of what their operation looks like.

    • CF says:

      Brad – No plans as of now, but I’m always open. I think Via is likely to be tough to get since it’s in the throes of turmoil right now. But I’m always open to good interviews.

  4. Jin King says:

    Hi Cranky, Back in the day when Aloha was opening up new 737 routes between the west coast and Hawaii we looked seriously at Paine Field.  We were actively encouraged by airport management and it seemed a good way to serve Seattle without encountering heavy competition at SEA.  But at the end of the day there were just too many barriers for a small airline to overcome. I am happy to sea that PAE finally has commercial service.

  5. Gene says:

    Flights out of PAE – FINALLY! For me, it’s a 10 minute drive, and if needed, I can walk to the terminal in less than an hour. And it’s a beautiful terminal; even has two fireplaces!

    It would have been nice to have WN there, but I’m happy with AS. I’m glad G4 didn’t suck up any slots.

    The biggest problem with getting commercial service has been the city and residents of Mukilteo. And they could still delay it with the new Supplemental Environmental Assessment that hasn’t been finalized yet.

  6. Kilroy says:

    I’m not very familiar with the costs of real estate / construction, but as a layperson the $50 million that Alaska paid for a 100k square foot hangar seems awfully high to me. That’s $500 per square foot for a HANGAR… You can buy/build office mid-rise office space with union labor in expensive parts of the Lower 48 for significantly less than that.

    Perhaps that $50m pricetag includes some expensive tools and equipment?

  7. steve says:

    I hope this sticks. As long as the price is in the ballpark, I’m never flying into SeaTac from LAX again. On E175’s as well, a great plane. I love this whole thing.

  8. Matt D says:

    Off topic, but if anyone would know this, it would b you.

    Is United having a complete system meltdown right now? SFO is a complete and total shit show. They are not answering their phones nor are they responding to email and Social Media inquiries. Something is up. Either they are in total uncontrolled chaos or else engaging in conduct that’s so intentional and egregious that it should be criminal.

    Getting reports from SFO and it’s absolute pandemonium there right now.

    • CF says:

      Matt – I don’t know about a meltdown, but I do know that visibility from the smoke at SFO is causing delays at the airport. I see United responding on Twitter to a ton of people, so I’m not sure what you mean there. As for not answering their phones, it’s busy right now because of issues on both sides of the country. We’ve gotten through for concierge clients today but there have been hold times.

      • Matt D says:

        They have logged off their Facebook page. Not posting. Not responding. Not even reading messages. The wait time at the customer service desk is 2+ hours long. The standby list for my Fiance is 15+ people long….and she’s already been bumped twice today. Trying to call on the phone? That’s also a 90+ min wait.

        In short, it’s a complete and total clusterf*ck up there right now. Weather/smoke delays aren’t the problem. It’s Uniteds [mis]handling of this and I can only presume that A) they’ve thrown in the towel and taken a ‘let the chips fall where they may’ attitude and B), to paraphrase a quote from that infamous movie with Steve Martin/John Candy movie: “You saying I could be stuck in San Francisco?”

        “I’m saying ARE stuck in San Francisco”.

        Not looking forward to the 5 hour drive I’m all but certain of having to make to come pick her up tonight. No way in hell she’s getting out of there on airplane today. I just don’t see it happening.

        I’ll go pummel United for the refunds later. Need to get her home.

  9. HH87 says:

    I suspect PAE will be a hit with passengers. It’s not a ton of new service (23 daily flights) and there are over a million people in the catchment area who probably hate driving through Seattle traffic. Also, most of the traffic is going south to sunnier/warmer places, which should do well in Seattle winters.

  10. Eric C says:

    I’m sure Alaska knows exactly where everyone in the PAE catchment area flies to and catered the initial offerings to them. They might even get a revenue premium vs SEA, since people in that catchment will be saving serious money in cab/parking at SEA. Kinda surprised United didn’t toss an ORD flight in there. Perhaps one of those 18 AS slots might rotate out that way in time.

    The move from 16 to 24 daily slots was in part done based on the faster turn time of the E175 compared to the 737, since it’s gate availability that’s the constraint. Any idea how many flights AS can up-gauge before the run in to problems?

    When you run your 2019 predictions next month, one of mine is that we’ll see some effort to expand the terminal to accommodate more flights.

  11. Ian Littman says:

    Add me to the list of folks who think Southwest backing out was due to AS giving something up at DAL. And my bet is that both airlines would rather avoid Delta getting a foothold at another airport, so better to have one airline serve more markets. If Delta showed up at PAE I’d expect CS100s flying out of there if not immediately then within six months.

    As for Via Air, they cover an interesting market here in Austin, but Frontier would probably love to not have to work around their schedule now that the two are sharing the South Terminal…Via apparently takes as long to turn an E45 as Frontier does to turn a 319/320, which is alarming. Frontier could probably make routes other than BTR and AMA work sub-daily if Via vanished, which would give them a little more wiggle room to play with other destinations from what will be a rather crowded three gates once peak travel season hits.

    • I’ve come across an internal-AS communication that specifically states that they didn’t give up anything at DAL for the extra gate space at PAE.

      It was a potent enough rumor, that they felt a need to refute it internally.

  12. Bjorn says:

    If true, anyone else think that Alaska and Southwest swapping slots at Paine and Dallas-Love would be an antitrust issue (dividing the market)? The consumer would presumably benefit from each airline competing for his or her business at both airports.

  13. Eric c says:

    The VIA story is interesting and perplexing. Were they trying to emulate the astounding success of ExpressJets branded flying of the early 00s? Where did the money come from to get them this far? Does “don’t worry, things will be different this time” qualify as due diligence now?

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