Southwest Airlines has announced it is trimming four flights each day between Seattle and Spokane starting Jan. 8, reducing passenger choices in getting to the West Coast air corridor.
The announcement on Monday was part of a package of schedule changes that will result in 102 fewer flights in a cost-cutting move by the nationwide carrier.
The two current inbound flights from Seattle and the two departures from Spokane to Seattle are being cut, leaving no direct flights between Spokane and Seattle on Southwest.
Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air have been strong in serving that corridor over the years.
Spokane passengers will still be able to get to Southwest destinations through Portland and other hub cities such as Denver and Phoenix.
The changes were published Monday for the period from Jan. 8 through March 9.
Airline officials said the shifts in capacity of the Southwest system are due to a seasonal slowing of demand during the winter and an effort to match the supply of routes and seats to passenger needs.
They also described the moves as “a continued pruning of unproductive flying due to high fuel costs.”
Brad Hawkins, spokesman for Southwest, said the change represents a shifting of resources to maximize efficiency.
“The economics of the flight weren’t working for us,” he said.
Expansion of service from Denver in recent years has been an advantage for Spokane passengers because it provides new connections to U.S. destinations. Southwest currently has 140 flights out of Denver.
Todd Woodard, spokesman for Spokane International Airport, said, “Obviously we are disappointed.”
He said that leaves Alaska Air/Horizon Airlines as the only carrier serving Seattle directly from Spokane. It is continuing its 20 daily flights between the two cities.
Spokane airport officials have asked Alaska Air Group to consider increasing service to and from Seattle to absorb the extra potential demand.
Spokane was not alone in the Southwest cuts. Boise lost its Seattle service along with cuts in service from Boise to Reno and to Salt Lake City. Similar cuts were made to routes around the country.
Woodard said the flights being lost amount to 4 percent of total departures from Spokane and 5 percent of seats into and out of Spokane.
Southwest apparently was having a hard time filling airplanes, Woodard said. Reports showed they had operated at 54 percent capacity and that about half of those passengers were considered local riders, being ticketed to the two destinations.
Woodard said he does not expect fares to increase because Alaska Air/Horizon Airlines must still compete with the automobile.