When we learned Kenmore Air was planning to run wheeled flights from North Seattle’s Paine Field in Everett (PAE) to Friday Harbor Airport (FRD), we knew we had to book a roundtrip as soon as reservations became available.
And, because we are many things, and importantly a team that keeps our word—to each other, our guests, and ourselves—we took that new flight so we could pave the way for your journeys out to us. So, come along as we detail the high-flying adventure from Kenmore’s airy hangar in Everett to the landing strip in Friday Harbor. It’s just 25 minutes, but it carries with it a whole lot of enchantment. This is the perfect option for you if you’re a “time is money” person, an aviation fan, or looking for a new way to get to the islands in style.
Booking The Flight
The Kenmore Air website is super-easy to navigate and the booking option pops up on the homepage. Put in your departure as Seattle Paine Field (Everett, PAE) and it’ll give you one option as your destination: Friday Harbor Airport (FRD). Easy peasy! Right now, there is one flight a day, departing at 4:30 p.m. That may change seasonally.
For all of you Alaska Airlines mileage plan members, you can earn Alaska miles when you book eligible connecting flights through the Alaska app. Also! If you think you’ll be coming out often OR you are traveling with a larger group (e.g. you’re hosting a wedding on the island), consider Kenmore Air’s QuickTix, which offers frequent flyers a bulk price discount on ten one-way tickets to the San Juan Islands. The tickets are fully transferable to everyone—friends, family, and even to the UPS guy you invited to your wedding at the last minute.
Getting To The Hangar
If you’ve flown out of Paine Field previously (or even if you haven’t. You should, though. It’s wonderful), you are not going to the same terminal you would be to take an Alaska flight. Write this address down: 3125 100th St SW, Everett, WA 98204, and bookmark these driving directions.
The Kenmore Air Express hangar is to your right as you drive in. It’s well-marked, but if it’s your first time, you’ll want to pay extra close attention to getting there because you may think you’re in the wrong place at first.
When we took the PAE to FRD flight, we called an Uber and had no issues getting to the front door, but that’s not always the case. Be diligent! And, if you drive past it, don’t stress. The whole airport is a short loop and you’ll find your way there swiftly. If you get super turned around, just call the reservations line and they’ll help you out: 866.435.9524.
This isn’t your regular check-in process. It’s much chiller, easier, island-vibier. Since the planes are so small, your reservation agent will probably guess your name correctly on the first attempt, ask you to weigh your bags (your limit is seventy pounds), and then carry them into the waiting area.
Inside the hangar, you’ll see a float plane gleaming and beautiful, a few chairs around a coffee table, and a long bar with desk lamps and workspace. You’ll also be shown a bathroom and a coffee machine. You’ll be offered a small bottle of water. It’s essentially a private lounge. Yep, there’s free WiFi, too.
Boarding The Plane
Once your plane comes in, your reservation/gate/does-all-things agent will carry your bags and load them onto the plane. He or she will greet the pilot or pilots who will then greet you. He or she may or may not need to refuel. Departure updates, including any delays, will be relayed verbally. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. If you are a seasoned flyer, but not as used to small fleets like Kenmore’s, you will find a welcome sense of casualness about the whole process. This is normal. This is good.
There are no seat assignments, so watch your head as you board and pick a seat that gives you your preferred view. We like to sit up front, but that’s just us.
Your ticket will likely indicate that the flight is thirty minutes from wheels up to wheels down. Pilots will share need-to-know tips and safety information. The in-air time is about 25 minutes. Because you’re in a smaller vessel, it will be a little noisier than larger planes are, but nothing you can’t handle.
You can use your phone as long as you’re not streaming, but you’ll probably want it only to snap photos and videos of your time on the plane since it’s probably unlike most flights you take. Soak it all in. You’ll be able to see all the islands from above—from Whidbey up and over to San Juan and all the islands in between. You’ll see ferries, barges, and cruise ships below you, and all the natural beauty that makes this part of the world its own little magical universe.
Once you land in Friday Harbor, your boarding process will repeat in reverse: watch your head as you exit out the rear. The agents will hand to you or carry your bags, and you’re off on your island adventure.
You’ve Made It! Now What?
This is the part of your adventure where you have to get a little clever. Island life is not like city life, so you can reserve a car that’s dropped off at the airport from Turo (there are some super slick options), walk to M&W Auto .5 miles down the road, or call a taxi.
We prefer M&W because it’s island-owned and each car comes with a Discover Pass (handy for those drives up to scan the horizon for whales at Lime Kiln), but don’t do what we did: Pack a bag with wheels so your walk is much more comfortable than ours was. .5 miles can easily feel like five when you’re carrying a fair amount of weight. This advice is obviously weather-dependent as well. It’s not fun to walk in the pouring rain, and if in doubt, the friendly agents in Friday Harbor will help you get to where you need to go.
A note on EVs: There are two charging stations in Friday Harbor, and they may be unreliable. San Juan Island is not set up well for electric vehicles and we don’t yet recommend that anyone plans on safely, conveniently charging their vehicles here. We’re in the very early stages of planning charging stations at Lakedale, but we’re not there yet—perhaps in a few years when this equipment becomes more affordable.
Reminder: You’re On Island Time
Allow yourself to move a little more slowly. We say this for ourselves since, on our return trip to Everett, we arrived two hours early and paced around the Friday Harbor Airport asking for flight status updates. While we’d never encourage you to show up right as your flight is set to depart, you are safe to allow yourself a little more time to stroll the shops in Friday Harbor before heading back to the airport. Plus, you’ll want to maximize your time on the island as much as possible.
It can feel easy and delicious. Nay, it gets to! And you deserve a little less stress in your travels. That’s exactly what this new Kenmore Air flight provides.
We can’t wait to hear about your journey to get here—as you probably know by now, that’s one of the best parts!