Tri-Cities Airport boardings up 3 percent this year

The Tri-Cities Airport could break its record for boardings this year.

About 4,000 more people flew out of the airport so far in 2015 than during the first half of last year. That’s a 3 percent jump.

And Delta and Alaska airlines plan to add more flights this fall.

“So far every month in 2015, except May, is better than 2014,” said airport Director Ron Foraker.

Nearly 329,700 people boarded plans in Pasco last year. That was the second highest number after 2012 with 331,300 boardings.

Foraker said the airport will come very close to breaking the 2012 record if the trend continues.

“It will be very close, but we have a good chance with the recent announcement of new flights,” he said.

Delta Airlines plans to start direct service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in November, while Alaska Airlines is bringing back an early evening flight to Sea-Tac in September.

“We’ve been after that flight for several years,” Foraker told the Herald. “We lost it when they started service to Portland.”

At mid-year Pasco has 162,311 boardings.

Tri-Cities Airport and the Tri-Cities Economic Development Council also are recruiting direct service to Los Angeles.

They have raised more than $300,000 in matching money from area businesses and government agencies for the grant to cover possible losses by the route. The port said SkyWest Airlines has expressed interest in offering that service.

“The community has really supported getting new air service at the Tri-Cities Airport,” port Commissioner Jim Klindworth said in a statement. “The port is proud to be a steward of this regional asset, and we are eager to grow the airport and see the resulting economic development.”

The growth has happened while the airport undergoes its largest expansion and renovation since the port took it over in 1963.

The first phase of the $57 million project is expected to be completed in early September. The first phase will include a new baggage claim area, restrooms and rental car facilities in the renovated building, as well as three new gates and restrooms.

“We are very excited about this growth,” Foraker said. “The minimal impacts on passengers and the numbers show that we are doing a pretty good job at that.”