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Vote: Would you fly Alaska out of Paine Field?

Alaska Airlines’ planned service out of Everett carries benefits and risks. What’s your preference?

Alaska Airlines announced this week it would begin passenger service from Everett’s Paine Field next year, probably to popular destinations in California and Oregon.

It’s a smart move in Alaska’s ongoing battle for traffic with Delta Air Lines and also positions Alaska as the go-to carrier as the region grows. It’s also a defensive gambit to get to Paine Field ahead of Allegiant Air or some other low-cost small rival. Depending on the destination, it could provide people north of Lynnwood with a convenient airport vs. landlocked Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

But this is also a risky proposition. Until light rail arrives in Everett, passengers are car-encumbered and dependent on Interstate 5. Also, I’m hard pressed to think of many regions of our population with more than one commercial airport. As of 2014, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metropolitan division had a population of 2.8 million. St. Louis, about the same size, has its major airport at Lambert Field, but a secondary one in nearby Illinois (MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, served by Allegiant with flights to Florida).

On the other hand, Phoenix, with a metro population of 4.6 million, has remained loyal to Sky Harbor International Airport. Although the Phoenix Gateway Airport promises flights from Allegiant and WestJet, it has struggled to make a go of it. Sky Harbor is centrally located (two miles from downtown), with freeway and light-rail connections. It works to keep costs down so a major carrier such as Southwest Airlines isn’t tempted to jump to Gateway. Also, Gateway is isolated on a former Air Force Base in southeast Mesa.

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