Improved Air Service to Yakima Gets Big Lift

By:  The Yakima Herald - Editorial Board
Source: The Yakima Herald

This says plenty: When given a choice of flying out of Yakima or Seattle, more than half of the Valley’s air passengers prefer driving five hours round-trip over a mountain pass, incurring the expense of fuel and other assorted vehicular costs, idling in Seattle traffic, enduring the cost and inconvenience of parking near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and waiting in long lines at the terminal to the short drive, inexpensive parking and expeditious security lines at the Yakima Air Terminal.

The reason? Flying out of Yakima involves extra air fare and, in terms of traveler convenience, long layovers — three to six hours aren’t uncommon — to connecting flights. That’s because Alaska Airlines, the only airline serving Yakima, offers only three round-trips daily to Seattle. Soon, part of the layover issue may be addressed.

Word came last week that the airport had landed a $290,000 federal grant, which will be matched by city of Yakima funding. The $580,000 total will go to supporting additional flights plus a marketing program aimed at increasing travel out of Yakima. About $455,000 will go toward a fourth round-trip to Seattle and new service to Portland, and $125,000 on marketing. Passenger surveys last year found broad support for a Portland flight.

Air traffic out of Yakima has risen a bit in the past year after a $70,000 marketing campaign called FLY YKM used television, radio. newspaper ads and a website, www.flyykm.com, encouraged travelers to use the Yakima terminal. A marketing campaign will be a key component toward making new flights work.

While more flights are definitely a win for Yakima, they could also be a win for Alaska. The Seattle Times in June detailed how Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has increased its Seattle flights up and down the West Coast to feed its trans-Pacific routes out of Sea-Tac; Delta’s domestic flights challenge Alaska’s longtime dominance in this region. A traveler flying out of Seattle may choose one airline or the other; the same passenger who starts with the only airline serving Yakima — Alaska — will be inclined to stay with Alaska the entire trip.

Reliable air service is a key component to economic development in the Yakima Valley. The $580,000 combined federal and local money — which garnered support from U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to Rep. Doc Hastings and the Yakima City Council — is an investment that stands to pay off for the Valley.

•Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.