Southwest Airlines won’t be getting happy passenger testimonials from 15 North Idaho legislators.
Those 15 senators and representatives’ change in travel arrangements, set in motion by Southwest’s recent elimination of one nonstop flight from Boise to Spokane, is forcing the Idaho Legislature to convene an hour earlier on Friday.
The North Idaho group typically left Boise on Friday afternoon, catching a 2:35 flight to Spokane.
That flight is no longer an option; now Southwest’s Boise-to-Spokane flights leave at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.
No other airline flies nonstop between the two cities.
“That causes us to have to be excused early from debate on the House or Senate floors or excused from committee meetings,” said Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls.
“Or we stay longer and then leave (at 9 p.m.) and not get home until after 10 p.m.,” he said.
Last week the group all left Boise at 1 p.m. to avoid the late arrival in Spokane.
This week the Senate and House leaders agreed to start Friday’s session an hour earlier.
“We’ll leave the floor by 11:30, when normally we don’t leave the floor until well after noon,” said Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle.
Idaho’s Legislature expects to end the current session on April 1.
“That’s still an inconvenience for the rest of the Senate,” Broadsword said.
Southwest first announced the intended cut in its schedule five weeks ago. Henderson, who serves on the Idaho House Transportation Committee, said he’s always seen full flights to and from Boise, not empty seats.
Henderson wrote a letter to Southwest CEO Gary C. Kelly, protesting the change and explaining the consequences.
He said he got a postcard in reply from the airline’s customer service department saying “nothing at all.”
Both Henderson and Broadsword said North Idaho legislators spend their weekends managing businesses or meeting with voters. They typically fly back to Boise Sunday evening.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said the airline adjusts schedules to best manage passenger demand.
“We are sorry to hear some of your readers are disappointed with our schedule optimization, but we offer two nonstop flights between Boise and Spokane and remain committed to service between those markets,” she said in an email.