Port Asking Cities/Businesses To Back Fee For 2nd Horizon Flight
The Chelan Douglas Port oversees operations at Pangborn Airport, and it's trying to get financial support from local cities, counties and businesses to help cover a new fee.
Alaska/Horizon Airlines has added a second daily flight to the airport, but the airline will charge a $500,000 fee if it's not able to cover the cost of the flight.
Port CEO Jim Kuntz says it's hard to get a financial commitment for a second flight when the airport has traditionally had 3-4 flights a day with no fees.
"We're down to one, now we're getting a second one back," said Kuntz. "It's really hard to raid funds and ask people to commit to get something that we're not even back to where we were when we started two or three years ago pre COVID."
The Port has sent out 40-50 letters to local governments and large businesses asking for financial commitments to help cover the airline fee.
So far, only the cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee have responded. Both sent checks to the Port. Wenatchee signed off on a $50,000 commitment, while East Wenatchee wrote a check for $10,000.
There’s thinking among Port commissioners that area cities and businesses may not be motivated to pony up with a monetary commitment because the Port has already made a blanket obligation to cover the airline fee.
Kuntz says the move was necessary.
“We’re the lead economic development agency in the two-county area, and we thought we just absolutely had to step up,” said Kuntz. “And we’re hoping that proves that we’ll have great ridership, the margins will be just fine, and we can build on this.”
Port Commissioners approved a contract with Alaska Airlines back in April that stipulated it would guarantee revenues of $500,000 for the carrier.
The contract provides for the additional flight for one year. The Port will be given monthly reports on airline revenues.
Kuntz has said Alaska was likely following a trend among regional carriers that are getting communities around the country to help with minimum revenue guarantees to provide additional service.
In fact, the airline is holding airports in Walla Walla and Yakima to the same agreement. Both those airports are in the same position as Wenatchee in that they only have a single daily flight from one carrier.
Alaska is essentially in a position of bargaining strength.
Back in April, Port commissioners speculated whether Alaska Airlines would drop airfares to keep traffic up, thereby dropping revenues and increasing the likelihood the Port would be on the hook for the guarantee.
Kuntz now says he’s hopeful the ridership out of Wenatchee will be so strong that the Port will be able to bargain for more fights to additional cities such as Denver or Salt Lake City.
The new flight starting next week will arrive in Wenatchee from Seattle between 11pm and midnight, with return service to Seattle in the 6am hour the next morning.
The current midday service to and from Pangborn/Seattle will remain unchanged.