Consider Southwest? A bad idea
In the August 31 edition of the Ballard News-Tribune, readers were asked to consider the Southwest Airlines proposal to move its operations to Boeing Field. Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air also announced their intent to seek equal access to the airport if Southwest moves. I am an employee of Alaska Airlines and would like to offer my perspective on the Southwest proposal.
On the surface, the Southwest offer is cheap tickets, a close and convenient airport, a free airport terminal for the county, and more jobs for Boeing workers. It all sounds like a good deal. Look closer, and the deal isn't what it seems.
Southwest is known as the low-fare king in an industry that is undergoing tremendous change. It is projected that in just a few years low-cost carriers will fly 70 percent of the air travel in the US. If Southwest chooses not to expand at Sea-Tac, someone else will. Alaska competes with Southwest on price, and just recently discounter JetBlue announced additional service to Seattle. King County officials may express concern over Southwest abandoning Seattle, but it isn't likely. Southwest will be here and residents will have access to low airfares, without the need to shift commercial air service to Boeing Field.
The Puget Sound region will eventually need a second airport. Does is make sense to have two airports so close to each other? Shouldn't a second airport be located thirty or forty miles north, south, or east of Sea-Tac where our region's population is growing? Business travelers do not visit only downtown Seattle, and I can think of no other large city with two major airports located within five miles of each other.
The Southwest offer of "gifting" their terminal to the county in the future seems generous, but ask yourself what a 50-year-old airport terminal is worth? It's certainly not the $130 million I've seen quoted in the press.
Beyond the construction of the airport terminal, there is the question of the improvements to the roadways near Boeing Field. Who will pay? Just as important in my view, is who will pay for the inevitable litigation expenses and environmental studies incurred by King County if the proposal is authorized? It is na