Grant awarded to help attract nonstop LA flight

By:  John Stucke The Spokesman-Review
Source: The Spokesman-Review

Nonstop daily flights linking Spokane to Los Angeles are expected to start again with the help of federal funds.

Spokane International Airport is set to receive a $950,000 transportation grant to lure and market such flights, said Larry Krauter, airport chief executive.

The airport will need to raise $200,000 in partial matching funds to receive the federal aid.

In the meantime Krauter is negotiating with several airlines in hopes of establishing a flight that attracts travelers.

"We see this as a major development in serving our region," he said.

The money will be used to market the new flight – the first since nonstop service to Los Angeles by ExpressJet and Horizon was ended years ago.

"For a variety of reasons those flights didn’t do well," he said. "I think the difference this time is that we will have a much greater degree of participation as to how the services are provided and marketing."

To avoid a repeat of earlier problems, Krauter will push for an early morning flight that will return in the early evening six days a week.

Airport officials want a narrow-body jet able to carry at least 99 passengers.

As for the price, Krauter wants the new flight to be within 10 percent of existing flights that have stops in, say, Seattle.

"We need a competitively priced flight that appeals to business travelers because it arrives in LA early morning and departs for Spokane that evening," he said.

Having a nonstop flight is expected to shave 16 percent off the time it takes now to fly from Spokane to Los Angeles.

Sen. Maria Cantwell announced the grant Tuesday afternoon, calling it a "major step forward for job growth and commerce in the Inland Northwest."

About 250,000 travelers from Spokane fly into the five major airports in the Los Angeles region every year, making it the second most popular destination for Inland Northwest airline passengers, according to a statement from Cantwell’s office.

Some of the grant money also will be used as a revenue guarantee for the new flight.

Krauter said airlines are reluctant to add flights and risk losing money during a sour economy.

"Much of this is about helping them mitigate risk," he said. "We’re confident Spokane will take advantage of the right flight."