Boardings set July record at Walla Walla Regional Airport

A screen capture from the Walla Walla Regional Airport's website.

A screen capture from the Walla Walla Regional Airport's website.

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WALLA WALLA — July soared into the record books at the Walla Walla Regional Airport.

More travelers flew in and out of the community last month than in any other previous July in history, according to figures from airport Manager Jennifer Skoglund.

During the last month 2,634 people flew out of Walla Walla. That number was up 14.8 percent, from 2,295, in July 2012. The next highest July for enplanements was in 2011, when 2,524 passengers boarded in Walla Walla.

The spike was similar for those flying in. Last moth 2,625 passengers flew from Seattle to Walla Walla. That was up from 2,139 during the corresponding month in 2012. The next highest July for incoming passengers was in 2009, when 2,569 people flew into the community.

Skoglund said the increase was a “total surprise.”

“Normally the summer is kind of slow,” she said.

She said she hopes the spike is the result of increased advertising from a two-year federal grant designed to boost passenger traffic and — ultimately — preserve air service in Walla Walla.

Skoglund said the ads have been hitting airwaves, press and digital sources in Seattle and in California’s Bay Area.

The $250,000 grant is part of a Small Community Air Development Grant issued through the U.S. Department of Transportation. Such grants are used to support existing air service or build new service. Under terms of the contribution, the Port matches $50,000.

The money was needed as air service had been shaky in Walla Walla.

Last summer, Seattle carrier Alaska Airlines temporarily grounded one inbound and outbound flight Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The airline told Port of Walla Walla and Walla Walla Regional Airport officials the company was losing money in the market.

To date this year load factors have been on the rise. Total enplanements are up 4.2 percent from 2012. The load factor for those flying into the community is up 6.5 percent over last year.

“It’s going to be interesting to see if the trend stays up,” Skoglund said.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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