Airline Services

Commercial Airline Services at BLI
The 1960s and 70s saw a variety of airlines make their homes or regular stops at the Bellingham International Airport (BLI), including San Juan Airlines, Seattle Airways, Puget Sound Airlines, and Eagle Airlines.

Years in Service at BLI
Pacific Southwest Airlines (became U.S. Air) 1985 - 1987
U.S. Air 1987 - 1991
Horizon Air 1987 - present
Alaska Airlines 1989 - 1992; 2009 - present
United Express 1989 - 2001
San Juan Airlines 1950s - 1989; 2002 - present
Allegiant Air 2004 - present
Delta Airlines 2006 - 2008
Western Airlines 2007
Skybus Airlines 2007

New Facilities
The arrival of Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) in 1985 heralded regular jet service to out-of-state locations and justified the new $1 million terminal constructed in 1980 to entice commercial jets. A new $2.3 million control tower was also built in 1996, placing operators 60 feet above ground, 45 feet higher than the old tower. But stability and continuity in the airlines was lacking.

The tragedy of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks furthered the difficulty of securing more airlines and travel destinations accessible from Bellingham International Airport. Amid rapidly falling passenger counts, United Express pulled its services from the airport in 2001, leaving Horizon Air as the only airline at Bellingham Airport to serve passenger needs. In 2002, San Juan Airlines resumed services. Allegiant Air began offering services from Bellingham to Las Vegas in 2004.

The port persisted in trying to court potential airline services, while simultaneously undertaking needed airport improvements. In 2006, it completed a $2 million remodel, which expanded the terminal, enclosed the baggage area, remodeled the restrooms, and redesigned the exterior.

Current Airlines & Passengers
Efforts to attract new airline services paid off. In 2006, Delta began a Bellingham service, which would last until 2008. Alaska Air would take its place in 2009. By 2010, four major airlines - Allegiant Air, San Juan Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Horizon Air - provided regularly scheduled direct flights to numerous destinations, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Phoenix-Mesa, San Diego, Long Beach, and San Francisco. Services have a wide customer base of both local and Canadian travelers.

It is estimated that almost half of Bellingham International Airport passengers are Canadians: it is often reported that it is easier to go through roadside customs and take an American plane to an American destination then to go through international airport security. There is also a palpable cost difference between the fees and taxes assessed on airport passengers in Canada and the United States. Flights to and from Sea-Tac International Airport remain an important mainstay of Bellingham business, commuter, and passenger flights, providing 40-minute connecting flights to a variety of national and international destinations. In 2009, 530,000 travelers used the Bellingham International Airport.

Next: Runway Expansion