I'm not surprised that such a small percentage of Palouse air travelers fly out Pullman-Moscow. I have flown three times this year. The only flight (to Monterrey, Mexico) out of Pullman-Moscow was on an SEL corporate jet. My flight to Tulsa, OK was out of Spokane and the flight to Memphis, TN was out of Seattle. In the time I have lived in Pullman, I would guess that I have flown maybe 30-40 times, with possibly 3 or 4 of those trips being out of Pullman-Moscow.
I am taking my family to Disney World later this year. I just checked some airfare prices on Travelocity:
Some might say that the $153 difference between Spokane and Pullman is worth it when you factor in gas, wear and tear, etc. But multiply that $153 by a family of 5 and you get a $765 difference. You can bet I would be driving the 75 miles to Spokane International Airport.
Pullman-Orlando $530 Lewiston-Orlando $477 Spokane-Orlando $377 Seattle-Orlando $407
As it is, we lucked out and got tickets for around $200 each to Orlando out of Seattle. Considering that Horizon's cheapest round trip to Seattle from Pullman is $245 (with the highest being a staggering $1229), I can fly cross-country cheaper than cross-state. Now, I realize that there are econmoies of scale involved, etc., but the bottom line is, like in many other apsects of life on the Palouse, we suffer from a lack of choices and a lack of competition.
Plus, with Horizon only going to Seattle, it adds a lot of time on to your trip, often makes connections tricky, and limits airline and schedule options.
I fully support these efforts to improve service at PUW. I hope another ailrine like SkyWest will see this booming market and setp up to the plate.
Increased use critical to local airport’s future
People board a plane more than 170,000 times each year with Pullman as their final destination. Only about 46,000 of them use the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport.
Lewiston and Spokane airports glean the majority of these travelers.
Bigger planes would help capture some of those flyers. So would adding flights to Boise or Salt Lake City, said Mike Boggs, a consultant working on a marketing plan for the small airport.
Boggs addressed a group of about 25 people in the Moscow City Council chambers Thursday afternoon. The group mostly was made up of members of the airport board and people who volunteered to serve on a task force designed to look for ways the airport can become self-sustainable.
The airport relies on contributions from the cities of Pullman and Moscow, the University of Idaho, Washington State University, Latah County commissioners and the Port of Whitman County for 34 percent of its annual operating budget of about $378,000. The fees it generates from commercial air service and private aviation pay only a fraction of the cost of running the airport.
Finding ways to convince commercial passengers to use the airport is critical to its future, Boggs said. Most of the people who use Horizon’s service from Pullman to Seattle are business flyers. For the most part, people who fly for leisure drive to Spokane, where they can get cheaper rates, he said.
The average round-trip airfare in Spokane is about $82 cheaper than the average fare in Pullman. The issue is an economy of scale — bigger planes mean it’s cheaper to transport each passenger, Boggs said.
Airport Manager Robb Parish is optimistic the Federal Aviation Administration will approve a waiver allowing bigger planes to land at the Pullman-Moscow airport after June 8, when a new instruction will be published in the airport facility directory advising pilots to delay taxiing when planes take off or land.
Parish brokered a deal with the agency in December 2004 to allow the 70-seat Q400 aircraft to land at the airport in exchange for a widening of the runway safety area and waging an information campaign designed to keep smaller, private aircraft off the taxiway when larger planes are using the runway.
The FAA was concerned about the distance between the taxiway and the runway. The taxiway is the area where planes wait before using the runway for take-off. It sits 200 feet to the north of the runway — too close to meet federal safety standards.
Work on the runway safety area was completed in October, but because of the topography of the surrounding land and the location of the airport terminal, nothing could be done about its distance from the taxiway. FAA paid $1.5 million, or about 95 percent, of the cost to widen the runway safety area.
The instruction to be published June 8 marks the last task FAA asked the airport to complete, Parish said. A safety inspector told Parish once that was done, he would recommend that FAA approve the waiver. Parish doesn’t know how long it might take the approval to work its way through the labyrinth of federal bureaucracy, but he’s hopeful it will be soon.
Representatives for Horizon Airlines often have said they want to use the Q400 plane to meet higher demand for flights on football weekends or for special events.
Boggs suggested another untapped demand could be met by courting a second airline to provide commercial service. He recommended adding service to Boise through Big Sky Airlines or to Salt Lake City through Delta Airlines. According to the data he compiled, Boggs believes Boise service could be successful with only 22 passengers per day.
Horizon offered service to Boise in the past, but stopped because they weren’t seeing enough passengers. Boggs said the situation has changed in the past four or five years.
Boise offers connections to more destinations than it did in the past. At least one person in the audience expressed concerns that bringing in a second airline could drive out Horizon. [Please, Horizon can compete or they can leave] Boggs said careful research would be done to make sure the airport could support both.
Plus, having a little competition would be healthy for consumers. “The best way to get a service improvement is to have competition,” Boggs said.