Records fell at Spokane International Airport last year.
New marks were set for number of passengers and total cargo weight were broken. Total passenger count was 3,550,912, exceeding the previous record of 3,472,901 set in 2007. Air cargo totaled 72,376 tons in 2017, beating the previous high of 69,218 tons in 2015.
Nancy Vorhees, Spokane Airport board chair, attributed the passenger record to the start of nonstop service to San Diego, Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Sacramento by American, Southwest and United airlines.
“The customer response to these additional flights is a strong indicator of market demand for travel between the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene region and California, the Midwest and South Central United States,” Vorhees said in a Tuesday news release.
Changing consumer behavior and the resulting boom in e-commerce fueled freight growth, according to Vorhees, who noted Spokane International is the primary commercial service airport in a three-state region.
The upward trajectory of the airport’s passenger and cargo numbers reflects growth in economic activity in the Inland Northwest and its continuing recovery from the Great Recession, said Todd Mielke, CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated.
“We’re seeing record numbers from before the recession,” he said of the airport data. “When it comes to economic recovery, our area tends to lag behind major metropolitan areas, and it looks like we are seeing that recovery in terms of economic activity.”
Alluding to the addition of flights in recent years, Mielke credited airport CEO Larry Krauder and his staff for effectively marketing Spokane International to raise its profile in the region and beyond.
“If there is any perception that we are remote, that is out the door with statistics like this,” Mielke said. “They’re letting business people know they can be connected to the area, and that work is paying dividends to the business community of the region.”
This year holds promise for further growth as well, with the airport expecting the start of nonstop service by Southwest to San Jose starting April 8 and the return of Frontier Airlines, which will begin service to Denver on April 30.
Spokane International ranked 77th in passenger traffic among 213 airports in 2016, the most recent for which data is available, according to Airports Council International-North America. The organization represents local, regional and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the U.S. and Canada.
Todd Woodard, the airport’s director of marketing and public affairs, said in an email that Spokane International’s ranking fluctuates from the mid-60s to mid-70s year to year.
Of those passengers traveling through the airport in 2017, Woodard provided statistics showing 1,782,452 were departures and 1,768,459 were arrivals. Forty-two percent of the total were business travelers and 56 percent were traveling for pleasure.
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