Is this the best airport in the United States?

PHOTO: A passenger jet engine. (photo via frankpeters/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

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It wasn’t very long ago that the The Points Guy, an American travel website with an aviation focus, reported a rat infestation at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, thanks to both growth in airport construction projects as well as an increase in passengers.

Washington state’s largest city, Seattle sees a lot of visitors each year and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US. Its airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), sees even more people — its 32 airlines serve 91 domestic and 29 international flights per day.

With so many travelers coming and going and connecting, there are crowds and, often, chaos. And for visitors to others parts of Washington state, namely the Puget Sound region north of Seattle, the drive from the airport to their destination outside the city can be a traffic nightmare.

On March 4, Paine Field, also called Snohomish County Airport, will begin commercial flight service. Scott North, public information officer for Paine Field, believes it’s going to be a game-changer.

Until this point in time, Paine Field, open since 1939, has largely supported general aviation, including a jet program by Boeing.

Its domestic flights, however, further open the doors to Seattle, providing an alternate mode of accessing Seattle’s clean fresh air, unparalleled coffee culture and thriving food scene. The change may be just what the city needs to retain a stronghold on its allure as a premier US travel destination.

But the emergence of Paine Field as a commercial player also opens up travel in other parts of the state, something that North says the Puget Sound hospitality industry is looking forward to.

Paine Field, located 30 miles north of Seattle, is roughly double the distance to Sea-Tac from the famed Pike Place Market. But to travelers all too aware of Sea-Tac’s mediocre reputation, the downside stops there.

Serving just nine domestic destinations, including Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, through 24 daily flights on two airlines (Alaska and United) Paine Field will be Seattle’s Triple-A team: less exciting maybe but also less high-stakes.

The small airport — it will have just two gates — means travelers can reach their gate in about 10 minutes.

That’s after relaxing in the waiting room reminiscent of an upscale lounge at a major airport. The space, which includes soft, yellow lighting, sunken leather seats and fresh flowers, looks out onto the runway, and may just make this the US’s best new airport.

Paine Field’s terminal is operated by Propeller Airports, a private company that will oversee the food and drink options and more. Currently ticketing kiosk testing is underway, and locals are excited for it to take off.

One reader wrote: “Beautiful! I can hardly wait!” in the comments section of a story published by Seattle Times last week.

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