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Nonstop flights increase traffic

The most frequent destinations for Spokane air travelers remain Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Boise and Phoenix. But one recently added daily nonstop flight to Reno could push that city to the top 10 list one year from now, airport data suggest.

Texas-based ExpressJet Airlines on Tuesday launched new daily nonstops to Reno and Tucson. Through 2006, Reno was the 12th most popular destination, with 32,450 people flying from Spokane to that Nevada city.

Spokane airport spokesman Todd Woodard said adding a new nonstop flight typically generates about 26 percent more passenger traffic for an airline.

That would lift Reno – all other airline traffic remaining steady – to the 10th most-visited spot, displacing Salt Lake City.

Currently, the sixth through 10th most-visited destinations for Spokane fliers are: Los Angeles, Oakland, Denver, Sacramento and Salt Lake.

Woodard noted that Spokane is preparing for the busiest holiday travel season in its history.

Overall passenger traffic for the first nine months of 2007 is up 8.2 percent from the same period one year earlier, he said. Several reasons are behind the growth. One is the new nonstop flights by ExpressJet, including earlier additions to Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego, said Woodard. In response, airline competitors such as Horizon and Delta, have added more flights to their Spokane routes, said Woodard.

“Plus it’s also the strength of the Spokane area economy. That is one of the main considerations” anytime overall air traffic increases, he added.

The most recent available quarterly numbers for airport travel shows that Salt Lake City has lost about 6,500 yearly trips by Spokane travelers. In part that’s due to Delta Airlines reducing the size of aircraft flying nonstop between the two cities.

Denver in the 12 months prior to March 2007 – the most recent period of data available – added 5,300 new passengers flying from Spokane, airline data show.