Use of local air service makes a difference

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One of the Port of Walla Walla’s top priorities has been and continues to be the retention of commercial air service in the Walla Walla Valley.

In past newspaper columns, newsletters and a host of public speaking engagements we have encouraged the greater Walla Walla community to fly out of Walla Walla whenever possible. Collectively we can make a difference in retaining commercial air service.

We are pleased to report community utilization of local air service (Alaska Airlines) in the Walla Walla Valley has been strong despite some reductions in frequency of service. In 2012, the Walla Walla Regional Airport had 31,825 passenger enplanements. This is slightly above our five-year average of 31,203 passenger enplanements per year.

Of particular importance to Alaska Airlines are the passenger load factor percentages for each flight segment into and out of Walla Walla. On that key measurement we have shown real progress.

In 2012 our passenger load factors for all flights into and out of Walla Walla was 68.09 percent. This compares to load factors of 65.25 percent in 2011 and 60.06 percent in 2010.

The Port will continue its efforts to make flying out of Walla Walla as convenient as possible. Parking is free and this summer 48 new parking stalls will be added. The Port offers free coffee and a Walla Walla Union-Bulletin newspaper to those utilizing the airport. Passengers can now take a case of wine with them at no cost.

We understand the current two-flight schedule is not always convenient to Walla Walla travelers. This necessitates flying out of other airports on occasion.

Our long-term goal is additional frequency and destinations out of Walla Walla. Today that is not economically viable for our market size. In fact, communities our size are losing air service.

The best short-term strategy is to retain the air service we have and continue to demonstrate to the airline industry that we are a stable and reliable market.

For our citizens who make it a priority to fly out of Walla Walla whenever possible, we want to thank you. You are the reason we have commercial air service in the Walla Walla Valley today.

The Port would like to recognize Alaska Airlines for its continued support of our market despite some challenging times in the airline industry. It has been great to work with and wants the Walla Walla market to be successful. Its airfares are competitively priced in the markets it serves. It is not always cheaper to fly out of the other airport.

The Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce’ Air Travel Coalition and our congressional delegation have been helpful in our commercial air service retention efforts.

The Port recently received a federal grant to promote increased air travel into our market. We have targeted Seattle and Northern California with an advertising campaign to visit Walla Walla.

Paul Schneidmiller is president of the Port of Walla Walla Commission. Jennifer Skoglund is the manager of the Walla Walla Regional Airport.

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