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COVID-19

News >  Spokane

Spokane Airport awaits Congress before decisions affecting future operations

After flying from Brazil, Gavin Wolcott, 19, gets a welcome-home hug from his mother, Coralee, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, afternoon at Spokane International Airport. Wolcott was serving a mission in Brazil, but his stay in the country was cut short. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
After flying from Brazil, Gavin Wolcott, 19, gets a welcome-home hug from his mother, Coralee, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, afternoon at Spokane International Airport. Wolcott was serving a mission in Brazil, but his stay in the country was cut short. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane International Airport celebrated its sixth straight year of growth last year, when almost 4 million people traveled through its gates, but the growing number of passengers canceling flights to avoid exposure to COVID-19 could halt that upward trend.

Several of the six passenger airlines serving Spokane – Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, United and Frontier – have been forced to cancel, consolidate or reschedule thousands of flights worldwide because of virus-driven government restrictions or decline in passengers.

Alaska Airlines, which has moved the most passengers through the Spokane airport over the past three years, has already reduced flight capacity for the month of March and plans to continue reducing capacity by about 15% by May, according a company report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Cailee Olson, media relations manager for the airline, said it had not yet determined where it would make those reductions.

Southwest Airlines has reduced service as well. Over the weekend, the airline announced it would cancel 1,000 of its 4,000 daily flights nationwide from March 22 to April 14, including all international destinations.

Delta Air Lines and the nation’s other carriers have also reduced capacity and are waiving fees to reschedule and cancel flights, and have asked the federal government for financial assistance.

Spokane airport spokesman Todd Woodard said the airport would not have updated local passenger numbers until April 20. He declined to say how the reductions in flights had affected the airport’s operations or if they could lead to layoffs.

“Our mindset is that we’re currently just assessing this day by day and seeing where we are, what comes out of Congress,” he said. “Once we see what transpires with them, then that’ll inform our decision-making.”

Congress has been considering an aid package that could provide payments of $1,000 or more for U.S. adults, as well as other funding to help businesses and families affected by COVID-19. Aid to the airline industry could be included in that package.

“We’re constantly in this period of assessment,” Woodard said, “One of the things that will help is once Congress passes their aid package, it will provide some certainty and clarity in our industry, for the economy and for workers in general.”

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