Cantwell Recognized for Leadership on Walla Walla Airport Grant

Senator presented with ‘Air Service Award’ for supporting grant to maintain local commercial air service

WALLA WALLA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on Thursday was recognized by the Walla Walla Valley Air Travel Coalition for her leadership in securing a Small Community Air Service Development Grant for the Walla Walla Regional Airport in 2012. With the grant, the airport was able to maintain local air service that supports the regional economy and increase passenger traffic by 13 percent.

Cantwell was presented with the Walla Walla Valley Community Air Service Award during a roundtable meeting at the airport with the coalition, a group formed by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m proud to have supported this grant because it’s an investment in economic growth for Southeast Washington,” said Cantwell, ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security. “Growing and maintaining air service to Walla Walla means more options for travelers to come enjoy local wineries and shop in local stores, which supports jobs.”

Walla Walla Regional Airport is served by only one airline, Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air, which depends on a certain number of passengers each year for the service to stay viable. The $250,000 grant, with a $50,000 contribution from the local community, allowed the port to develop a strategic two-year marketing program that advertised travel to local wine country destinations.

In 2014, 72,585 passengers flew in and out of Walla Walla, compared to 63,500 passengers in 2010. This summer, Alaska/Horizon will operate 13 round trip flights per week between Seattle and Walla Walla.

“We appreciate Senator Cantwell's continued support in retaining commercial air service in the greater Walla Walla Valley,” Port of Walla Walla Commission President Ron Dunning said. “She has been instrumental in securing air service marketing dollars which the local air service coalition has used to promote air service in the Walla Walla Valley. These marketing efforts have resulted in strong passenger growth at the Walla Walla Regional Airport during the past several years.”

Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) grants are used to either support existing air service or build new service. Due to the marketing program’s success, the port will continue to fund the program.

Cantwell has been a vocal leader in support of SCASD Grants, and sent a letter in 2012 to then Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in strong support of Walla Walla’s application for a grant. SCASD Grants have also helped expand regional air service for Spokane, Wenatchee, and Yakima.

The port also partnered with Alaska/Horizon to launch the “Wines Fly Free” program in which passengers leaving Walla Walla were not required to pay baggage fees for checked cases of wine.