American Airlines had a sold-out flight for its Wednesday launch of nonstop service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Spokane International Airport.
The 124 passengers on the Airbus A-319 arrived at 10:40 a.m. after a 3-hour, 15-minute flight. Some wore complimentary Spokane Indians ball caps.
Four new members of the Spokane Indians baseball team were on the flight. They were joining the team for Wednesday night’s game against Vancouver at Avista Stadium.
The Spokane Indians are affiliated with the Texas Rangers, so the Major League franchise expects to fill seats on the flight on a regular basis.
“They’ve made this inaugural flight the best example of what greater connectivity means for our communities,” said Collins Sprague, chairman of the Spokane Airport Board.
Local politicians and community leaders celebrated the launch of nonstop service with a cake and speeches about the economic benefits of direct transportation between Spokane and Dallas-Fort Worth, a metro area of more than 7 million people.
For Hayden resident Paul Barber, the benefits are more personal. He spent the Fourth of July holiday weekend visiting his fiancee, who lives in Dallas, and caught the direct flight back to Spokane.
Every few weeks, either Barber or his fiancee travel to see each other. Their long-distance relationship will benefit from the convenience of direct flights, he said.
Dallas-area resident Gary Slade was also on the flight. He came to Spokane for business and fun.
Slade owns a trade publication focusing on the amusement park industry. He’ll visit Silverwood Theme Park while he’s in the area and spend several days in Sandpoint with friends. In the past, Slade said traveling to Spokane meant at least an hour layover in Phoenix or Salt Lake City.
“It makes me want to come here more often,” Slade said of the direct flights.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French, who grew up south of Dallas, said direct flights will strengthen ties between the Spokane area and Dallas-Fort Worth, which both have a strong military presence and act as regional hubs for business, health care and research.
The daily flight leaves Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for Spokane at 9:15 a.m. Central Time. A return flight leaves Spokane at 1:55 p.m. Pacific Time, arriving at Dallas-Fort Worth at 7:26 p.m. Central Time.
The flights represent the first direct service to Texas from the Spokane airport.
Spokane airport officials spent more than five years lobbying American Airlines for nonstop service to its hub in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The direct flight to Dallas-Fort Worth is one of five new flights being added at the Spokane airport this year. The other new destinations are San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and Chicago.
It’s rare to add five new cities in one year, particularly in a community the size of Spokane, said Larry Krauter, Spokane International Airport’s chief executive.
“We’re dedicating two airplanes to this route,” said Chuck Allen, American Airlines’ managing director of government affairs. “That’s a big commitment on the airline’s part.”
American Airlines analyzed passenger travel between Spokane and Dallas-Fort Worth and studied Spokane’s economic growth trends before committing to the direct flights. Half of the cities American serves are midsized metro areas, similar in size to Spokane, Allen said.
The new direct flights will strengthen Visit Spokane’s marketing pitch for convention business and leisure travel, said Cheryl Kilday, the tourism organization’s president and chief executive.
Visit Spokane put together sales missions for each of the five cities with new nonstop service, with two sales missions targeting Dallas-Fort Worth. Texas frequently shows up in the top five areas of origin for traffic on the organization’s website.
“The full flight is a great way to start off,” Kilday said. “It’s a sign of early demand.”
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