By Vicki Hillhouse, September 10, 2014, Walla Walla Union Bulletin
Air service continued its sky-high ascent in August, according to figures from the Walla Walla Regional Airport.
August was another record-breaking month in what has been a year for the books.
According to figures from airport Manager Jennifer Skoglund, August saw a 17.8 percent spike in outbound passengers from the same month a year ago, and a 10 percent jump in inbound passengers.
The airport is served by Alaska Airlines, which provides daily flights to and from Seattle.
Last month saw 2,909 people fly out of the community, compared to 2,470 during August 2013.
Inbound passengers in August totaled 3,217 passengers, compared to 2,924 in August 2013.
The monthly hikes contributed to a 91/2 percent year-to-date increase in total outbound passengers, and 8.1 percent increase for inbound riders.
Airport officials have attributed the jump in air travel to a couple of initiatives: a major increase in marketing to promote flying local, and an initiative to reduce case fees for those flying in and out for wine tourism.
The Port of Walla Walla, which oversees operation of the airport, is in the second year of a two-year $250,000 federal grant to help promote and stabilize air service. The money — which also required a $50,000 local match — has been targeted in communities from Seattle to the Bay Area to promote the Walla Walla Valley.
In addition to enplanements and deplanements, airport officials are also keeping an eye on load factors, which represent the percentage of available seats occupied on the planes and are crucial to the continuation of air service.
The year-to-date average on outbound flights is 71 percent, compared to 2013’s 67.04 percent year-to-date average at this point. The average for the year on inbound flights is 72.7 percent. For this time last year, that average was 67.8 percent.
The combined inbound/outbound average load factor for the entire year is 71.85 percent. That figure compares to last year’s year-to-date average for the corresponding period at 67.42 percent.