Business

Airport panel OKs bond sale

A $20 million overhaul of rental car operations at Spokane International Airport will increase capacity 30 percent by November, project manager Teresa Eckard said Wednesday.

Although some preliminary work has been done, she said, construction should begin in earnest next month, when a contractor will be selected. Airport officials will open bids Tuesday.

Wednesday, the airport board of directors authorized the sale of $27.5 million in bonds to cover costs and retire some older, high-interest bonds. The city of Spokane and Spokane County must also approve the new bonds, which will be repaid from a $3 charge on each rental transaction.

Airport Director of Finance Cheryl Moose said passenger numbers were up 7 percent over 2006, a 35 percent increase in airport revenues per passenger, and falling interest rates should make the bonds attractive to investors.

“It’s a very advantageous time,” she said.

Moose said non-airline revenues, notably those from parking and rental car operations, have kept landing fees at levels one-third those of Seattle and Portland and, at $3.40 per passenger, just 6 cents higher than Boise’s.

Southwest Airlines Co. Vice President Bob Montgomery praised the airport’s effort to control costs and maximize revenues from a variety of sources in a Jan. 9 letter to Airport Director Neal Sealock.

“The financial performance of Spokane International Airport is a breath of fresh air in an industry burdened with cost pressures on many fronts,” Montgomery wrote.

Sealock said low fees and planes filled near capacity will work to Spokane’s advantage if an expected wave of airline consolidations reduces the number of carriers serving the airport. But even with load factors among the highest in the United States, he added, “We have to work hard to maintain those routes.”

Meanwhile, the number of rental car agencies at the airport grew to 10 last summer with the addition of Alamo. Eckard said their separate maintenance facilities are hogging space.

The reconfiguration will consolidate maintenance and fueling into one area with 10 bays, she said, and double the space for vehicles. Canopies and landscaping will be added. The entrance to the rental car area off the airport access road will not be moved.

“It’s going to make a huge impact on the traveling public,” Eckard said.

The rental agencies handled 790,000 transactions last year, and the number is increasing about 2 percent a year.

The service counters inside the terminal will not be affected.



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