Convenient, affordable air service is critical for the Walla Walla Valley.
So when Alaska Air announced its intention to change the Walla Walla schedule to have the last flight arrive at 11:50 p.m. — just before the stroke of midnight — convenience was eliminated. The flights from Seattle to Pasco suddenly looked more appealing, creating doubt about the future of local air service.
It wasn’t the first time concern has surfaced. Each time it has, community leaders (Walla Walla Air Travel Coalition) worked with Alaska officials to make the scheduling as flyer-friendly as possible.
Coalition members again reached out, and succeeded almost instantly. Before 2013 gave way to 2014, Alaska agreed to make only a slight change in the schedule. The last flight will now be set to arrive at 9:10 p.m. rather than the current 8:25.
The new schedule will be better for some travelers, particularly those who fly to Seattle and back in a day. This gives them another 45 minutes, which is a nice cushion to have in the Seattle-Tacoma bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The added time will also make it possible for those traveling from elsewhere to get to Seattle in time to catch the last flight. In some cases it will eliminate the need for a night in a motel.
The fact that Alaska moved so swiftly is also a good sign. It shows a willingness to work with the community. Air service is as critical to the tourism industry as it is to the business needs of local banks, colleges and other industries.
Getting this issue resolved before any real drama developed is good for the community.