Boardings climb at Pasco airport

Pasco's Tri-Cities Airport has regained a number of flights this spring, helping May airport boardings climb.

Airport Director Ron Foraker said service is back to normal levels after cuts to flights during the fall and winter months.

The growth of boardings in May was enough to make a dent in the gap between boardings so far this year compared to last year.

As of the end of May, boardings were about 5 percent down. The month before, year-to-date boardings were about 8 percent under 2012 levels.

Last year was a record year for the airport, with total boardings reaching nearly 331,300.

That was up 1.4 percent from the previous year and an overall jump of 100,000 boardings since 2008.

Direct flights to Los Angeles were canceled in August, and service to San Francisco, Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Denver was reduced during the winter.

That meant the seats those flights normally offered were not available for passengers, contributing to a drop in boardings during February, March and April, Foraker said.

But all those flights have been restored. Los Angeles service was added back this month, and the other flights returned earlier this spring, he said.

Foraker said he hopes to see the service levels hold steady the rest of the year. Airlines have not indicated if they plan seasonal service reductions later this year.

In May, the Tri-Cities Airport had about 27,900 passengers board planes, compared to about 26,900 during May of last year, a 4 percent increase, he said.

From January through May, the Pasco airport has seen about 126,000 boardings, compared to 132,600 during the same time last year.

The level of airport boardings still remains above the minimum needed to pay back a revenue bond that the Port of Pasco commission hopes to use to pay for the airport terminal improvements, officials say.

The port would issue a bond for about $23.7 million, paid back over 20 years using passenger facility charges and other airport revenue.

The number of boardings affects the amount of airport improvement program money received from the Federal Aviation Administration and the passenger facility charges collected from airline tickets.

The proposed conceptual design for the terminal expansion includes moving the staircase and restrooms to the front of the building to open up the area near the security checkpoint. Security, ticketing and baggage areas also would be expanded.

A new concourse beyond the security area would feature a view of the airfield, with gates to the right and left.

The port is currently in the design phase of the project. Officials hope to be able to complete the $35 million renovation of the terminal in one phase.

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