LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - The reality of Walla Walla air travel

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For the past few years I have been the only resident of Walla Walla County (population 58,000-plus) to consistently attend the scheduled Port of Walla Walla meetings.

Furthermore, I do not stop in to listen or comment on one specific topic and then leave, I try to stay for the entire meeting. If there is an executive session, which to my understanding is appropriate, I leave and return when it concludes.

Furthermore, the Port and the county and the city all have executive sessions as do most organizations.

Port Commissioner candidate Barlow Corkrum stated in the July 31 Union-Bulletin he would emphasize air travel as a primary focus.

But wait, please consider this reality check first:

Alaska/Horizon is a for-profit business. It has to abide by rules and regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration but it has no reason to do what a Port commissioner attempts to focus on.

The Port commissioners cannot make Alaska/Horizon fly unprofitable empty planes into Walla Walla just to provide a three-, four- or five-flight schedule that looks good and is popular with the voting public.

Local residents choose to fly as they wish. Monthly reports from Alaska/Horizon show the current two flights per day have just recently reached approximately two-thirds capacity averaged over the course of a month. That is the minimum Alaska/Horizon hopes for.

Meanwhile, a variety of local groups (including the Port) have worked hard to encourage locals to fly out of Walla Walla and as the numbers slowly rise that means their work reflects success.

If Alaska/Horizon offered more flights that does not mean more people would automatically fly out of Walla Walla - hard statistics show that. What would happen is the current monthly average of out-bound fliers would simply be spread out over more flights thereby reducing each flight's capacity thereby resulting in emptier flights departing Walla Walla As a result, each flight would become more costly for Alaska/Horizon to operate on a per-seat basis.

If Alaska/Horizon decided to leave (which it could) under their current for-profit scenario based on two-flights per day, a government regulation, under which Walla Walla is eligible for, would kick in and the government would offer a subsidy to an airline interested in providing air service to/from Walla Walla and Alaska/Horizon would be eligible to apply for it and most likely get it and then return with service for Walla Walla with a taxpayer funded subsidy.

That is reality. Campaign rhetoric is not.

R.L. McFarland

Walla Walla

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