August was a high-flying month for air passengers.
More people flew into the Walla Walla Regional Airport than any other August on the books. Last month, 2,924 people flew into the community. That’s a 10.6 percent increase from the same period a year ago. Airport Manager Jennifer Skoglund said returning college students likely put the numbers over the top toward the end of the month. The number of passengers flying out of the community was 2,470 — not a record for the community, but an increase of about 6.1 percent from August 2012.
Despite the increase in air travelers over last year’s corresponding period, the load factor was down. The load factor — the use of available seats — is what Alaska Airlines officials considers to measure profitability and demand in the market.
Last summer the airline temporarily shaved one inbound and outbound flight from the daily schedule during Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The airline said it was losing money in the marketplace. With those flights restored, the passenger numbers this summer — even in greater volume — are spread through more flights, which means fewer travelers per plane on average.
“It’s hard when you’re trying to compare apples to apples,” Skoglund said. “Yes, we had more people, but because we had one extra flight those days this summer we’re still not filling the seats.”
August’s impressive passenger numbers follows an incredible July, when passenger numbers and load factors were higher than typical for the month.
The year-to-date load factors are about even compared to last year. Outbound flights to Seattle are at 66.21 percent filled, compared to 65.48 percent last year. The inbound load factor this year is 68.26 percent, compared to 67.05 percent at this time in 2012.
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8321.