Puyallup Tribe, Kenmore Air open seaplane terminal in first-of-its-kind partnership
PUYALLUP RESERVATION, Tacoma, Wash. — Tickets are on sale for scenic flights from the new Puyallup Tribal Air Terminal with Kenmore Air on Ruston Way in Tacoma.
The project is a partnership between the Puyallup Tribe and Kenmore Air. The partnership will be highly visible in the skies over Puget Sound thanks to Kenmore Air wrapping one of its seaplanes with the Tribe’s salmon logo and the logo of the Tribe’s Emerald Queen Casino & Hotel.
“We are excited for this historic operation to begin,” said the Puyallup Tribal Council, the Tribe’s governing body. “With our partners at Kenmore Air, people are able to see the beauty of what our area has to offer.”
This year’s scenic flight season will run until Oct. 15with Kenmore Air planes taking customers on a 20-minute scenic flight over the South Sound. Passengers will soak in stunning views of Mount Rainier, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Commencement Bay, Puget Sound, Vashon Island, and other sights. The scenic flights will then resume in April, and flight operations may expand with service to the San Juan Islands and Victoria, B.C.
“We’re thrilled to see this partnership and South Sound service offering come to fruition,” said David Gudgel, president of Kenmore Air. “Our scenic flights are always popular and we’re excited about the potential for South Sound service access direct to the San Juans, Victoria and beyond.”
The new dock is adjacent to 2 acres of land the Tribe purchased in 2021. In addition to the RAM restaurant, the property includes the former C.I. Shenanigan’s, which is being converted into a new Native / internationally inspired restaurant with world-renowned Chef Roy Yamaguchi.
The air service will also open the Tribe’s casinos and hospitality venues to visitors from British Columbia and beyond. In May 2020, the Tribe opened its new $400 million Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma as well as its adjacent 155-room luxury hotel in December 2021. Recently, the Tribe inaugurated sports betting at its Tacoma casino and its EQC location in Fife through a partnership with BetMGM.
With 25 aircraft in operation, 52 pilots on staff and more than 250 employees in peak season, Kenmore Air is among the best-known and most respected seaplane operators in the world. In the future, the partnership will work together to create an aviation job training program for interested Puyallup Tribal Members.
Since 2020, the Puyallup Tribal Council and its economic development team have aggressively worked to diversify and expand the Tribe’s economic base. In addition to opening the new casino, purchasing the Ruston Way property, partnering with Kenmore Air and Yamaguchi, it partnered with Amazon on a new sort center and started a new company, Tahoma Global Logistics, using its port property. On June 20, 2023, the Puyallup Tribal Council and the Seattle FIFA World Cup local organizing committee announced the Tribe as cultural partner of Seattle FIFA World Cup 26—the first in FIFA World Cup history.
The partnership with Kenmore Air makes it the only Tribe in the United States to bring seaplane services into its economic portfolio.
“The Puyallup Tribe is a leader in business, and we try to think outside the box as we diversify our economic portfolio,” said Matt Wadhwani, the Tribe’s financial and economic development officer.