Tri-Cities Airport is one of busiest small airports in North America

The Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco keeps adding flights and bigger airplanes.

So it’s no surprise the airport is the eighth busiest of 543 small North American airports, according to Official Aviation Guide, an aviation tracking firm.

The Tri-Cities Airport is in the top 2 percent of airports in its class, according to North America’s Airport Leaders 2019, released this week.

Pasco averages 20 daily flights and 518,000 passenger seats each year.

By comparison, Atlanta is the busiest “major” airport with more than 62 million seats.

And Portland, Ore., is the busiest “large” airport, with 11.9 million seats.

An airport is considered “small” with 510,000 to 554,000 outbound passenger seats in a year.

Major airports such as Atlanta offer more than 12 million outbound seats. Seattle-Tacoma International, with 29.4 million seats, is considered a major airport.

Large airports offer 8.5 million to 12 million seats.

Foggy TriCities Airport
Boardings at the Tri-Cities Airport are up nearly 15 percent for the first four months of 2019 compared to last year. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Tri-Cities flight demands

Pasco’s star is rising thank to a growing population, increased demand from travelers and the addition of new flights and larger planes.

The airport posted a record 785,164 passengers in 2018 even after Alaska Air Group canceled flights over its high-profile pilot shortage. Alaska eventually dropped its Portland flight.

Boardings are up nearly 15 percent for the first four months of 2019 compared to last year.

And they’ll likely keep rising.

United Airlines launched a daily flight to Los Angeles International Airport this spring.

Delta Airlines has added a fourth daily flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul and is assigning a larger plane to one of its Salt Lake City runs.

Allegiant Air is ramping up its seasonal service for the summer now that school is out.

Pasco also offers direct flights to Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix-Mesa, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle-Tacoma.

Easier to fly in and out

Buck Taft, who manages the airport for the Port of Pasco, said making the top 10 list for busiest small airports highlights how easy it is to fly in and out of the Mid-Columbia.

“We’re grateful to our airline partners for increasing the opportunities to fly out of Tri-Cities, and to our community for choosing their local airport to begin their journey,” he said in a news release.

The busiest small airports are: Hector International Airport in Fargo, N.D.; Akron/Canton in Ohio; Key West International in Florida; Billings Logan International in Montana; Amarillo International in Texas, Tallahassee and Jackson, Fla.; Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco; Yellow Knife in Canada’s Northwest Territories; and Baton Rouge, La..

The busiest airports aren’t always the fastest-growing.

Cheyenne, Wyo., boasting a new terminal, flights and free parking, is the fastest-growing small airport with nearly 1,600 percent increase in service, according to the report.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.