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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Shawn Vestal: Spokane airport posts some of the best on-time figures in the business

In the ticketing and terminal rotunda areas, Spokane International Airport has installed dynamic video displays that feature HD footage of iconic scenery around Spokane.   (COLIN MULVANY)
In the ticketing and terminal rotunda areas, Spokane International Airport has installed dynamic video displays that feature HD footage of iconic scenery around Spokane.  (COLIN MULVANY)

In a network full of challenges for the air traveler, those of us who fly into and out of Spokane are relatively lucky.

As the industry rebounds from the pandemic doldrums, many carriers and airports are struggling to maintain schedules, staff systems and satisfy customers. Delays and cancellations are up, along with customer complaints.

But as Spokane International Airport comes out of the pandemic downturn, its flight numbers are approaching its record year of 2019 – and it’s ranked among the most punctual airports in North America.

“I’ve never had a bad experience at the Spokane airport,” said Larry Weir, who has been flying out of the airport for 32 years as the play-by-play radio announcer for EWU sports. “I think they do a nice job.”

Weir calls himself a “semi-frequent flier and during the sports seasons a very frequent flier.”

He prizes the easy accessibility of the Spokane airport, the lack of crowds, close and affordable parking – all the advantages of an airport that is smaller and more efficient than many huge airports.

According to the OAG, a U.K.-based travel analytics firm that gathers data on aviation worldwide, Spokane International had the fourth-best on-time percentage of all North American airports for 2022 – at 81.29%. Several regional airports have similar OTPs, but few larger airports are at or above 80%.

Spokane’s cancellation rate of 1.52% also is below average.

Both of those figures are heavily influenced by the carriers’ performances, and other factors outside the airport’s control. But Todd Woodard, the airport’s director of marketing and public affairs, said Spokane International has built a strong record of keeping the airport ready for operations, even in challenging winter weather.

“It is remarkable to have such good on-time performance for an airport that has a four-season climate,” he wrote in response to questions.

He credited airport teams for staying focused on operational readiness and responsiveness, and for high standards of snow and ice control.

“We ‘set the table,’ so to speak, for the airlines to be successful and run on time,” he said.

Like the entire industry, the Spokane airport took a massive hit during the pandemic. In 2019, it posted a record year for passengers, with just over 4 million total passengers. That fell off by more than half the following year, and has been slowly creeping upward.

In 2022, total passengers reached 3.9 million, just 2.9% below 2019.

The airport has added parking, and still sees the garages reach capacity several times a week during busier periods, Woodard said.

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