Horizon Air is re-establishing Spokane as a crew base for pilots and attendants, changing an 11-year practice of having crews spend a night in area hotels before leaving the next day.
The airline, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, is not planning to add more flights in coming months. The changes are cost-saving measures, said Horizon Air spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey.
Horizon Air also is designating Medford, Ore., and Boise as new crew bases. For the past several years, all of Horizon’s 432 pilots and 510 flight attendants were based in Portland or Seattle.
“The cost factor is the No. 1 focus” of the change, Lindsey said.
Lindsey said she has never seen an estimate for how much Horizon pays to book hotel rooms for crews who fly in and out of Spokane or other cities with originating flights.
“I’ve never seen anyone put a specific number on that cost,” she said.
The changes take effect this week.
Spokane is now the assigned base for 45 pilots and 53 attendants.
The airline will give crews the choice of moving to Spokane, Boise or Medford.
Of the three cities, Medford will have the largest contingent – 108 crew members.
The crews assigned to Spokane will have until the end of the year to decide whether to make Spokane their home, Lindsey said.
Those who want to live elsewhere will need to “dead-head” from their home cities to and from Spokane. Dead-head flights are those in which pilots or crews travel as passengers on their own time.
Horizon, which flies primarily Bombardier Q400 aircraft, also has a maintenance crew at the Spokane International Airport.
Though Horizon is a separate unit under Alaska Air Group, it has essentially dropped its brand. All of the Horizon flights to and from Spokane have aircraft with Alaska’s logo on the sides.
Another long-term reason for the change in crew bases is to simplify flight crew schedules in anticipation of new rest requirements, Lindsey said.
“FAA regulations are changing in two years regarding pilot duty time and rest,” Lindsey said. “This change will help us comply with new regulations as efficiently as possible.” The new rules set a 10-hour minimum rest period prior to the flight-duty period, a two-hour increase over the previous rules. The new rule also mandates that a pilot must have an opportunity to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within the 10-hour rest period.
The decision in 2001 to shut down the Spokane base coincided with changes in flight schedules. At that point Horizon started cutting the number of flights that started or stopped in Spokane, which eliminated the need for the full-time crew base, Lind