The Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco could begin offering daily direct flights to Los Angeles next June.
The airport has been awarded a $750,000 federal grant to attract an airline to provide the service. More than $300,000 in local matching funds also was raised.
The money will help with start-up costs, marketing and revenue guarantees for the airline that steps up.
“This grant award is the result of unprecedented support from our community partners, private businesses and congressional delegation. It’s a huge win for the whole Tri-Cities region,” said Randy Hayden, executive director of the Port of Pasco, which owns and operates the airport.
“Even though airlines are currently enjoying high profit margins, it’s still a financial risk to provide new flights out of smaller regional airports, which is why this grant program is so critical to the Tri-Cities Airport,” he told the Herald.
An airline isn’t in place yet. SkyWest Airlines wrote a letter of support during the application process. That airline, or another, could ultimately take on the service.
As for timing, if “everything falls into place,” the airline will announce the new Los Angeles service in April of next year, with the flights starting in June, Hayden said.
The flights would likely go to Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX.
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell offered support during the grant process, and they hailed the award Tuesday.
“This investment is great news for families, businesses and the entire regional economy,” Murray said. “I am proud to support this investment which will better connect our communities, meet the demand of our growing population, and help the Tri-Cities’ economy thrive.”
Cantwell said that the daily flights between the Tri-Cities and Southern California will be “an important economic component to unlocking even greater opportunities and more jobs for the region.
“The Tri-Cities area is a vital part of our state’s economic engine,” she said. “Between the terminal expansion and new destinations to choose from, the Tri-Cities Airport is primed to see strong passenger growth.”
The Pasco airport sends about 930 passengers out a day on its four airlines, and the daily direct L.A. flights would add the capacity for another 140 seats a day, Hayden said.
The airport already offers some direct flights to L.A., but the service — through Allegiant Air — is limited.
The grant is through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The matching money came from local governments, businesses and community groups, including the cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick, Benton and Franklin counties, the ports of Kennewick, Benton and Pasco, the Tri-City Development Council, Visit Tri-Cities, Battelle, JUB Engineers, Bechtel, the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce, Washington River Protection Solutions and TiLite.