EVERETT, Wash. -- With a statue unveiling, an adventure in champagne christening, and cut of a large ribbon with oversized scissors, Everett's Paine Field is officially open for commercial service.
Alaska Flight 2878 took a ceremonial bath from Paine Field fire trucks before spinning around and taking off into sun-kissed sapphire blue skies over Everett as snow-capped Olympic Mountains towered in the background -- opening a new era of commercial flights from the North Sound.
“It’s a historic moment for Snohomish County,” said Ryan Crowther, who lives in Everett and has a ticket for one of the first flights out of the Snohomish County Airport on Monday.
The opening comes after delays from an FAA review and a 3-week government shutdown.
Crowther bought a ticket for the 10:30 a.m. flight to Las Vegas to simply be a part of history.
“That’s the fun of it. I really have no interest in going to Vegas on a Monday. But to be part of a first experience of walking through the terminal, being 10 minutes away from my house, and seeing the excitement, it’s worth it,” said Crowther.
The opening ceremony began with an unveiling of a statue of Lt. Topliff Paine, the Everett H.S. and UW alum whom which the airport was named after.
"We'd like to remember Topliff; we're so grateful for what Propeller (Airports) has done for us, this is a tremendous honor for our family," said one of Lt. Paine's great nephews at the unveiling ceremony. "(Lt. Paine) had a very short life, but he had a very eventful life."
Next, it was time to christen the airport with a traditional smashing of the champagne bottle, but Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Airports, found out just how sturdy the new building was and the bottle of champagne, taking several attempts at hitting the wall until having to pop the cork and then getting the glass to break.
“We’re small, but I think people are going to be surprised when they walk in here,” Smith said on Monday.
Finally, the ribbon was cut and the airport was officially open for business, though some passengers were already inside checking in for the inaugural flights. What they found inside was small airport that was big on modern day amenities.
“It’s not your typical airport. Power at every seat, high speed internet throughout," Smith said.
Smith said he projects 1.2 million travelers will pass through Paine Field annually.
Some travelers who live nearby are relieved to have an airport close to home.
“I don’t have to fight my way through I-5 south, SR-99, go through the city,” said Matthew LaRocca, who lives in Edmonds and has a flight scheduled for March 20 out of Paine Field. “We’re flying out at 5 o’clock so we can leave and get there in 5 minutes, it’s really nice.”
“It's so easy just to come to this airport,” said Jeanette Burton of Everett.
Burton lives in a retirement community less than a mile from Paine Field and said the convenience means she'll book more travel.
“I like to go to Phoenix, so thinking I can jump on a plane that is only two blocks from my home — that is pretty inspiring,” laughed Burton, who came to the airport because she was curious.
“It’s very exciting,” said Burton who snapped a few photos of the ticket counter and reader board of departures and arrivals.
“We don't have to pay for parking in Seattle, we just get a ride from somebody,” said Jonathan Gaspar of Lake Stevens. He and his family were on the first inaugural flight from Everett to Las Vegas.
But if passengers do park a Paine Field, the economy lot will set you back $20 compared to $30 at Sea-Tac.
The FAA completed its environmental review on February 20 and didn’t find any significant noise or traffic impacts from the 24-planned daily departures.
That review had been delayed due to the 3-week government shutdown.
There are currently nine destination cities from Paine Field: Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.
We wanted to know if flights would be less too. Alaska Airlines would only say it set prices based on market conditions and demand.
Checking online Monday KOMO News found a number of one-way tickets out of Paine Field $5 less than flights out of Sea-Tac. We also found a $65 saving on a ticket to Los Angeles.
“I thought the prices were really well priced,” said Burton.
United Airlines will begin commercial flights at Paine Field on March 31.