Risk Loss Of Funding If They Don't Negotiate With Allegiant
Low-cost air carrier Allegiant Air has encountered community
barricades in an effort to expand into the Seattle, WA area, but
the Federal Aviation Administration is cautioning officials to
"play nice" or risk their Airport Improvement Program (AIP)
Allegiant Air notified Snohomish County in May its intention to
begin twice-weekly flights from Snohomish Co. Airport/Paine Field
(PAE) in Everett to Las Vegas. Allegiant currently flies from
Bellingham, 60 miles north to several vacation destinations in
California and Arizona, and to Las Vegas from Pasco.
The Seattle Times reports the FAA warned county officials
Thursday to negotiate with a commercial airline wanting to
introduce passenger service to Paine Field, or risk federal grants
for airport improvement.
FAA district manager said in a letter to airport director David
Waggoner, "Failure to negotiate in good faith may subject the
County to an enforcement action" and could put continued receipt of
federal funding at risk.
Despite the FAA warning, officials vowed to continue fighting
commercial operations at the airport.
On Tuesday, the Snohomish County Council adopted a resolution
against commercial flights from Paine Field citing concerns and
opposition in surrounding communities to increased air traffic and
the negative impact it would create.
"We're still very opposed to commercial air service," said
Christopher Schwarzen, spokesman for County Executive Aaron
Reardon. "We don't think it fits with the surrounding
County Councilman Brian Sullivan said the county will ask US
Reps. Rick Larsen and Jay Inslee and Sen. Maria Cantwell to lobby
the FAA on the county's behalf.
The airport, well known for its role in commercial aerospace
manufacturing, is home to the Boeing Co. production and delivery
centers. Sullivan feels the airport should remain exclusive to that
niche and not aim to be an air carrier airport.
But considering the FAA warning, business leaders and airport
advocates argued that refusal to consider commercial flights could
jeopardize AIP funding for airport improvement that has totaled $57
million since 1945.
As Boeing ramps up production of the 787 Dreamliner, built in
Everett, airport officials say that another $50 million in repairs
to taxiways and runways are needed in the next five years, to
support anticipated traffic increases.
The FAA letter, dated Wednesday from Seattle Airports District
Office Manager Carol Key, said that grant provisions require that
the county "make the airport available as an airport for public use
on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination to all types,
kinds and classes of aeronautical activities, including commercial
aeronautical activities offering services to the public at the
The letter concluded, "to ensure continued receipt of federal
funding, you must negotiate in good faith with Allegiant Air."
In its May 12 letter of interest to Paine Field, Allegiant Air
Vice President Robert Ashcroft noted that the airport's current
1,000-foot terminal would not be adequate to serve the
150-passenger MD-80s that the airline flies. Ashcroft also noted
that expanded parking facilities and ground support would have to
be secured before passenger service could begin.
Councilman Sullivan said Thursday that if the county is forced
to negotiate with the airline, it will require a "world-class
terminal" from them in addition to a plan to mitigate traffic and
noise as well as restrictions on time of day for departures and
The surrounding cities of Mukilteo, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace
and Lynnwood have fought commercial air service for at least 30
years and all all passed resolutions against it.
Opponents argued that a policy statement known as the Mediated
Role Determination precluded airport expansion beyond general
aviation, aviation-industry-related uses and private commuter
A review by a citizens panel appointed by Reardon concluded a
year ago that federal law does not allow the county to prohibit
scheduled passenger service, but the county does not have to
subsidize service and can make airlines pay for their own
In addition, Sullivan believes a precedent exists for a county
airport to refuse commercial airline service, citing a recent
example in neighboring King County.
In an effort to reduce costs for passengers in the Seattle
region, Southwest Airlines proposed in 2005 to leave the pricey
Sea-Tac Airport and build its own passenger terminal at nearby
Boeing Field. King County executive Ron Sims ultimately
rejected the proposal after protests from neighbors, the Port of
Seattle and other airlines using Sea-Tac.