August 2, 2005 in Business

Airport growth matches national trend

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane’s airport registered an impressive 9 percent growth in passengers last year – the largest gain among major Northwest airports.

About 237,000 more passengers left from or came into Spokane last year compared with 2003, and that surge helped Spokane climb to 70th from 71st among the busiest airports in the country. Spokane’s growth last year matched the national airport growth of 9.1 percent, said Mark Sixel, who compiles data for Spokane and other airports around the region.

His 2004 data show that the big three destinations from Spokane continue to be Seattle, Portland and Boise. Tickets to and from those three cities come to nearly one-third of the total 2.8 million passengers going through Spokane’s airport.

Spokane’s fastest-growing air markets, however, are Phoenix, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, three cities being served by more nonstop flights than ever before, said Spokane airport spokesman Todd Woodard.

About 18,700 more passengers flew to and from Phoenix than in 2003. Las Vegas saw a gain of 18,310 more passengers; Salt Lake City saw 17,550 more passengers than the year before.

During 2004, Phoenix-based America West Airlines increased to three the number of nonstop flights between Spokane to Phoenix, said Woodard.

The same year, Southwest Airlines also added nonstop flights to Salt Lake, he said.

“Any time you add nonstop flights, that stimulates activity,” he added.

The other Northwest airports that Spokane compares itself against also saw gains. Boise’s volume rose 8 percent in 2004; Sea-Tac Airport added 6.7 percent more passengers and Portland rose by 4 percent.

Only several smaller Northwest airports, like Billings, Eugene, Ore., and Bellingham had higher year-over-year gains than Spokane.

Spokane’s 2004 gain reflects a nationwide growth by regional airlines. Across the country, regional carriers like Horizon, or Big Sky Airlines, saw traffic rise by nearly 28 last year, according to industry statistics.

The top five airports sending passengers to Spokane last year were: Seattle, Portland, Boise, Oakland and Sacramento.

Southwest Airlines remained the busiest single passenger carrier in Spokane. In 2004, Southwest carried 844,787 passengers at Spokane’s airport, a 10 percent gain.

Horizon Airlines, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, saw a 29 percent gain from 2003; it carried 696,870 passengers in 2004.

Alaska Airlines handled 490,740 Spokane passengers, an increase of nearly 12 percent from the year before.

Alaska and Horizon, as one airline group, generated fare revenue of $91 million from their Spokane passengers, compared with $62 million for Southwest.

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