The Scoop on Tri-Cities Airport, SCASD and Los Angeles Air Service
UPDATE - From Port of Pasco Beacon, Summer 2016
Direct, daily flight service to the Los Angeles area has long been a target for additional airline service. Significant progress toward this goal was reached last year when the Port, working with the community, secured a $750,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant designed specifically for supporting this service.
Receiving the grant was the first step. Now, the Port is working alongside TRIDEC to meet with airline officials in an effort to recruit the service. Thus far, there have been meetings with representatives from Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and United Airlines.
“Meeting with airline officials has been a very positive beginning to the process of securing daily LA service,” said Ron Foraker, director of Airports. “Because we have built a long-lasting, professional relationship with many of the airline planners, our story of the greater Tri-Cities growth and diversity has been well received. We have been able to make the case as to why this service makes sense. “A lot of decisions like this from an airline’s point of view are based upon not just the numbers, but about the availability of equipment and pilots to service a new flight. Several airlines mentioned that delivery of new commercial regional jets beginning in 2017 is key to adding additional markets.” he said. “Both SkyWest (which provides service on behalf of other airlines) and Alaska are adding planes in 2017.”
During his presentation to the Tri-City Chamber membership, Brad Tilden, Alaska Airlines CEO said, “I personally think you (Tri-Cities) should be encouraged about service like that.”
The Port is hopeful that this fall we will have more information from the airlines.BACKGROUNDThe Tri-Cities Airport has seen significant passenger growth over recent years and is currently underway with a $42 million dollar expansion and rehabilitation improvement project to the Terminal Building to provide more space and a higher level of service. This adds capacity but not more flights. Right now the Tri-Cities Airport is served by four major airlines connecting to nine major destination cities. Geographically we serve over 850,000 people all within a two hour drive to the Tri-Cities.
Over 150 airline passengers from our area travel daily to the Los Angeles basin. Roughly half of those passengers connect from Pasco through the cities of Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City and San Francisco, but half start their travel from Seattle, Portland or Spokane. This number is large enough to support daily direct service, and why we feel that our next destination city from the Tri-Cities Airport is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This summer the Port of Pasco was successful in obtaining a Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) grant. With that grant in hand we will market the new route to all airlines, with direct air service to Los Angeles hopefully starting Summer 2016.
SCASD is a major source of support for airlines starting new destinations. It offsets some of the risk and cost to the airlines by providing dollars for startup operations, marketing costs and revenue guarantees. In the previous year’s grant cycle we were beat out by Boise and Yakima. We analyzed those applications and identified some ways to improve our application for this year. One of the areas lacking was community support. Communities with strong local financial support are those that receive grants.
Last year we were able to secure over $114,000 in pledges and this year our goal was $250,000. We ended up raising over $300,000 in matching funds because of great community support. A recent University of Oregon study found a direct link between economic growth and air service, showing that greater air service was not only a result of economic growth but a cause of that growth as well. Bottom line is that growing air service will grow the Tri-Cities and we owe it to ourselves to increase our air service options.
Now that we have the grant in hand, we believe that our community can put together a winning recruitment to gain direct daily service to Los Angeles. Together we can make the Tri-Cities a more convenient, competitive and better place to do business.
We would like to provide a special thanks to these community partners and their support for direct, daily air service to Los Angeles.
TRIDEC, Franklin County, Visit Tri-Cities, Benton County, City of Pasco, City of Kennewick, City of Richland, Port of Kennewick, Port of Benton, Battelle, JUB Engineers, Bechtel, Tri-City Chamber Commerce, Washington River Protection and Ti-lite