August 30, 2012 in City

Spokane will lose SWA flights to Portland

Alaska/Horizon will add a flight to that destination
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Southwest Airlines is planning to drop its Spokane service to Portland starting Jan 6.

The airline’s Spokane station manager, J.C. Evans, said the decision follows Southwest’s move to drop service to Seattle at the start of this year.

Southwest flies twice a day between Spokane and Portland.

Seattle is the most popular destination for Spokane passengers, while Portland ranks second, according to federal transportation numbers.

The airline has found that 75 percent to 90 percent of passengers flying to Portland are connecting to other flights. Southwest can get those passengers to their destinations via its flights from Spokane to Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Oakland, Evans said.

He added that the number of passengers just going to Portland from Spokane is declining.

Transportation Department data show that the total number of passengers flying between Spokane and Portland dropped 5 percent from 2009 to 2011.

Those numbers reflect both Southwest and Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air flights, the two carriers serving Portland and Spokane.

Alaska/Horizon, with six flights daily, flies far more passengers in and out of Portland than Southwest does, the reports show. It will add a seventh flight to Portland in January.

When Southwest dropped service to Seattle, Alaska’s companion airline, Horizon Air, announced it was adding two flights on that route. The announcement came three days after the news broke from Southwest. Today, the cost of a roundtrip to Seattle on Alaska/Horizon is $191.

Southwest is trying to reconfigure service to emphasize longer distances to major destinations, Evans said.

It is moving aircraft to cities with “high connecting opportunities” such as Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas and Oakland. The airline also flies to Boise from Spokane.

Southwest’s flight to Portland averaged 60 percent capacity, according to Spokane airport spokesman Todd Woodard. “These are some of the shortest flights in the Southwest system,” Woodard said.

Brad Hawkins, spokesman for Southwest, said the elimination of the Spokane-Portland route is expected to be permanent, but the airline “will never say never” about the possibility of reinstating the route some day.

“It does come back to market performance in a high fuel cost environment,” he said.

Reporter Mike Prager contributed to this report


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