Port of Seattle enhances incentives for small community air service from Sea-Tac Airport

The Port of Seattle Commission approved an enhanced incentive program for new commercial air service to small communities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho as a means to stimulate the critical links between small communities and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The action took place during Tuesday’s Commission meeting.

“This continues our efforts to be an economic engine for our entire region,” said Stephanie Bowman, Port of Seattle Commission Co-President. “We recognize the difficulties faced by small Pacific Northwest communities in attracting viable air service. This incentive could bring this closer to reality for these communities.”

The program provides participating airlines with temporary waivers of landing fees and certain facility charges, as well as joint promotional support designed to assist the establishment of new services in the first two years. Depending on the level of service, annual benefits to airlines could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The enhancement updates the incentives to include full waivers of landings fees, gate/lobby fees, and ticket counter fees for the first two years of service plus joint promotional funds.

A Small Community Air Service Incentive Program has existed since 2007, however, no airlines have taken advantage of the program. Smaller airports nationwide have faced challenges attracting air service due to fundamental shifts in airline economics over the past two decades. Most major U.S. carriers are removing smaller, inefficient 37-50 seat aircraft from their fleets entirely, those traditionally used in small community service.

Air service to Sea-Tac is a critical link to the global transportation network. However, such service from smaller Washington airports has steadily declined in recent years. In 2000, there were nearly 42,000 annual scheduled passenger departures to eleven Washington airports; by 2005, the number had halved to just over 20,000 departures to eight Washington airports. In 2015, the number decreased to less than 15,000 scheduled departures to seven Washington airports. Airports such as Port Angeles and Moses Lake are among those who no longer have service to Sea-Tac Airport.