The Spokane International Airport’s remarkable run of growth now extends through four consecutive years.
The airport served 2,988,575 passengers during 1995, an 11.2 percent increase over 1994’s 2,687,482.
Last year was the fourth straight with double-digit passenger growth, placing Spokane International among the fastest-growing airports in the country.
In recent interviews, airport officials said they expect the trend to continue through another year.
“We know this growth rate isn’t going to last forever,” said John Morrison, Spokane Airports director, “but we are still on the curve going up.”
The growth in airport activity has broad economic implications. The increased passenger traffic has attracted more carriers and more flights, bringing Spokane into the mainstream of business travel. The availability of flights is crucial to many of the companies that have relocated here.
Terry Strom, chief executive officer of Egghead Software, said the airport’s growth was a subtle but crucial factor in the company’s ability to relocate and do business here.
“If you are going to be a nationally oriented company and locate in an area like Spokane, you’ve got to have air access,” Strom said in a recent interview.
Companies like Egghead come here for the lower costs, the labor force advantages and the lifestyle, Strom said. But a national company can’t operate without being able to move its personnel and its customers in and out with ease.
“The ability to two-stop your way to almost any place in the United States or the world is critically important,” Strom said. “One of several ways Spokane has been a pleasant surprise to us is that it’s actually a mini-hub. And the more you can build on that, the more attractive this city becomes.”
When he started promoting Spokane as a convention destination a decade ago, Hartley Kruger said Spokane was perceived in other parts of the country as an isolated destination.
“The perception was that there was a lack of transportation into Spokane,” said Kruger, who is president of the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Growth in the local air travel market, though, has aided the bureau’s recruitment efforts, which helped produce $66 million worth of convention business in 1995. Southwest Airline’s national recognition, particularly among business travelers, played right into Kruger’s marketing schemes.
“When Southwest entered the market,” Kruger said, “that added significantly to our capabilities.”
The growth boom was driven by the entry of low-fare carriers into the market, particularly Morris Air in 1992, which forced the carriers serving Spokane to restructure their fares in order to compete.
Southwest acquired Morris in December 1993, and entered the Spokane market a few months later. Southwest’s size and stability assured that low-fare price structures would become a fixture in the Spokane market.
Other aspects of airport operations have grown as well.
Airport officials say total cargo established a new benchmark during 1995 by surpassing the 80 million pound mark for the first time at Spokane International.
During the month of December, the airport handled 278,589 travelers, an 11.35 percent increase over December 1994. It handled 12.25 percent more cargo than the same month a year ago.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo