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New flights to San Juan Islands boost tourism and connect families

Kenmore Air said after 16 years, they’re expanding with the new terminal at Paine Field and flight to the San Juan Islands because there’s a need.

SEATTLE — When you’re on an island, transportation is everything. With the ferry delays and cancellations, a new express flight from Everett is one more option. 

Lifting off in a Cessna Grand Caravan, Nancy Moloney is one of the first passengers to fly from Paine Field to the San Juan Islands on Kenmore Air.

“I’m watching for whales but they’re not showing up,” said Moloney who is making the trip to San Juan Island from Idaho.

“I kind of worked backward how I would get from Idaho close to the ferry,” said Moloney. The flight costs $189 each way. Moloney found a $50 difference to take one of the four flights now offered out of Paine Field as opposed to a shuttle and ferry. She said it was worth the extra cost to not have to wait.

Moloney anxiously traveled to see her sister who just got out of surgery, “It’s been about four months since I’ve seen her.”

These flights are a new venture for Kenmore Air who’s been in the Pacific Northwest for 76 years. “We think that we hit the right chord and are offering a service that’s being welcomed,” said David Gudgel with Kenmore Air. 

The flight lands on both Orcas Island and San Juan Island. 

“No traffic involved,” said Amy Nesler with the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau.  

It's the fastest option to get to the islands, flying for about 25 minutes. The flight is a welcome service for the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau as tourism is a major economic driver for the islands. 

“The numbers seem to be up this year, they’re not as high as last year, I think partly inflation and gas prices are driving that," said Nesler.

COVID-19 shut everything down for three months, it was a major hit to their economy. 

“There’s still some recovery,” said Nesler.

"It’s creating another transportation link and reliably so, and so a lot of people depend on us to come see family and friends and get medical services,” said Gudgel.

Connecting family like Moloney, who didn't want to waste even one minute taking care of her sister. 

At this point, you can get to the San Juan's from Boeing Field and Paine Field. Kenmore Air said they plan to announce another flight out of the Tacoma area next Spring.


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