Business

Horizon plans temporary cut of 1 Seattle-Pasco flight

PASCO -- Horizon Air is cutting an evening round-trip service between Seattle and Pasco in the fall.

But the cut is only a temporary one.

The 6:35 p.m. flight from Seattle, which lands in Pasco at 7:20 p.m. and returns to Seattle at 7:55 p.m., won't operate between Aug. 22 and Nov. 6.

It's about better resource utilization, said Dan Russo, Horizon's vice president of marketing and communications. "We do things seasonally looking at traffic patterns."

As part of larger change, Horizon is reducing service on the Medford-Los Angeles and Seattle-Kelowna routes. The latter, like the Seattle-Pasco flight, is expected to be reinstated during the busy winter season.

The airline also plans to discontinue service Aug. 22 on the following routes: Boise to Idaho Falls, Boise to Los Angeles; Flagstaff/Prescott to Los Angeles; Eureka/Redding to Seattle, Redmond to Los Angeles; and Sacramento to Santa Barbara.

Horizon initially erroneously announced the evening Seattle-Pasco cut to be long-term, if not permanent, citing low passenger counts on the flight.

The flight's return from Pasco is perhaps the least of the under-utilized segments for Horizon, said Jim Morasch, director of the Tri-Cities Airport.

The seasonal cut will boost passenger loads on the remaining five round-trip flights and improve profitability, Russo said, adding Horizon has no plans to increase the fare.

In the fall, a lot of people from Eastern Washington prefer to drive to Sea-Tac to make their connections, which means a lot of empty seats on Seattle-bound planes, Russo said. In the winter, people prefer to fly instead of driving across the passes, he said. That's why Horizon plans to offer the flight again Nov. 7.

The evening flight is good for those returning home from Seattle at the end of a business day, Morasch said. In the fall, they will be limited to return flights either at 4:10 p.m. or 10:25 p.m., Morasch said.

"It's unfortunate," said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-City Development Council. "We hear airline say 'use it or lose it'. Shame on us for not using it."

You can't blame Horizon for trying to find a better use for their plane, Adrian said. He said he's glad the cut is seasonal.

Horizon is trying to optimize its network while it transitions to an all Q-400 aircraft fleet for greater efficiency, said aviation consultant Jack Penning. Flight reductions will bring Horizon closer to its goal, he said.

The airline plans to sublease four of its 17 regional jets to Atlantic Southeast Airlines in conjunction with flight reductions, said Portland-based Penning, who's with Sixel Consulting Group.

Having two types of aircraft is a drain on resources, Russo said. Horizon will eventually get rid of regional jets, which consume more fuel. Horizon serves 48 cities throughout Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Baja California Sur (Mexico), and British Columbia and Alberta (Canada).

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricityherald.com; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com

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