Alaska Airlines buys Southwest's Paine Field slots

The new terminal at Paine Field.

Alaska Airlines has become the first carrier to announce a start date for service out of Paine Field, which will soon become the second commercial airport in the Seattle area. 

Southwest won't be one of the airlines at Paine, deciding to sell its gate rights at the airport to Alaska for an undisclosed price.

Alaska will launch Paine Field service on Feb. 11 with a flight to Las Vegas. Between then and March 12, the carrier will gradually increase its Paine Field schedule to 18 departures per day to Las Vegas, San Jose, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County and Portland. Tickets are now on sale. 

Alaska had been slated to fly just 13 daily departures from Paine Field, but picked up five more in the Southwest deal. 

In total, service out of Paine Field's two-gate commercial terminal will be capped at 24 daily departures. United holds the other six departure slots and intends to fly three times daily to Denver and San Francisco. United has yet to announce launch dates for the routes.

In announcing last January that Southwest planned to fly from Paine Field, CEO Gary Kelly said that the decision was fueled by crowding at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, which has made growth there difficult. 

On Thursday, Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the carrier reversed course, in part, because its primary focus of growth next year will be Hawaii service, which Southwest hopes to launch early in 2019 pending the completion of an FAA approval process for long-range operations. 

"Operationally, we also gained a greater understanding of different scenarios for how three airlines operating 24 flights on two gates would work and how our employees would work in and around that terminal space," Hawkins said. "All things considered, we've made the decision to not begin service to Paine Field."

The airport will provide convenience to residents of the northern Seattle metroplex, who will be able to avoid long drives through the city to Sea-Tac. Paine is located 38 miles north Sea-Tac.

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