EVERETT, Wash. - The San Juan Islands is considered to be one of the true natural wonders of the world. People of different ages and backgrounds take an adventure there to see what makes it so magical.
"It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Kelly Ford visiting from California. "We love flying across and seeing all the islands and it’s just a trip in itself."
The trip to the island is now faster and easier than ever.
Kenmore Air has a new roundtrip flight service from Everett to San Juan and Orcas Islands. The company launched the new service Thursday.
Ford and her daughter Sarah traveled from Orange County to the Seatttle-Tacoma International Airport. Once they arrived, Ford said she booked a flight in Everett with Kenmore Air online. The mother-daughter duo were some of the first passengers on the new route and said it made their travels from California more convenient.
"We were honestly going to Uber and do the ferry, but knowing that we’d get there so much quicker and there were two seats available still," said Ford.
"I like just going on adventures," said Sarah. "I just want to see animals from up in the air. Sharks or something."
Kenmore Air offers four daily round trips at its terminal located at Paine Field in Everett. The company flies a nine-passenger aircraft from Paine Field to Friday Harbor Airport in just 25 minutes. The flight continues to Orcas Island Airport.
"The mountains are going to be out. We’ll have the Olympics, we’ll have the Cascades, Mount Rainier and Mount Baker is very large in the San Juans. You get a really different perspective from driving around here. When you see it from the air, see how areas are connected, the waterways and just the beauty of the islands...there’s not a more spectacular flight," said David Gudgel, Kenmore’s chief operating officer.
He explained this service is something the company has been doing successfully for the past 16 years at Boeing Field in Seattle.
"We’ve seen that grow and the demand grow, and particularly in the last couple of years with some of the difficulties that the ferry services had and the difficulty of getting to San Juan’s. We thought this was a great opportunity in conjunction with the growth that we’ve also seen here at Paine Field and the opening of this amazing airport," said Gudgel.
Officials with Paine Field said the new route offers a reliable connection between the islands, Snohomish County and Paine Field Passenger Terminal, operated by Propeller Airports. The officials said, "For those that live in the San Juans, it is an easy 5-minute walk to connect to destinations served by Alaska Airlines out of the Paine Field Terminal. The terminal and Kenmore Air both provide a personal touch that is unparalleled in today’s travel environment."
Gudgel said reliability is important, especially when ferries sometime can’t do the same.
"In order to have your ferry reservation acknowledged you have to be through the booth 30 minutes prior to departure and then hopefully the ferry is on time at that point. And then you’ve got another hour or so. So from here we have easy access to this airport from I-5, from 99 and literally drive up right in front of the terminal, park and check in. 25-minute flight," said Gudgel.
Propeller Airports said it continues adding flights at Paine Field and planes are pretty much full. Kenmore Air said its new service taps into that growing number of connecting flights out of the airport. The company opened its terminal in Everett seven months ago.
"This expansion to Paine Field really feels foundational for us. We’ve operated for a long time out of our Kenmore base and Lake Union base. But this is an opportunity for us to own our airport experience, we’ve moved our maintenance facilities here," said Gudgel.
A trip from the company’s terminal to the islands has a flat rate of $189 for one way. Kenmore Air has more information about the new flight service, tickets and schedules on its website.