Alaska Airlines announced Thursday it will provide nonstop flights between Boise and the Palouse starting in August.
The airline will offer daily direct flights between the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport and Boise five days a week. There have not been direct flights between Boise and the Palouse for at least a decade, and Boise flights from Lewiston’s airport were canceled in 2018. The new schedule will begin Aug. 17.
As part of an agreement between the airline and the University of Idaho, the UI will guarantee payments of as much as $500,000 a year for three years if the flights do not make at least a 10 percent profit. If the airline turns a profit higher than 10 percent, the UI won’t pay a thing, though UI President Scott Green said he expects some expense, at least at first.
Airport director Tony Bean said the agreement’s three-year life span gives the airport, the UI and Alaska the time they need to market the service and grow ridership so they can ensure profit. Additionally, Bean said, the Pullman-Moscow airport will waive its landing fees for Boise flights and has pledged at least $25,000 toward advertising the new route.
Bean said growing service options is the latest step in a series of improvements at the airport tilted toward increasing connectivity to the Palouse. The airport is completing the final parts of a reconstruction and realignment of its runway that cost more than $150 million.
The airport is also hoping to raise about $45 million in federal money for a new 50,000-square-foot terminal with four gates, expected to cost in the neighborhood of $55 million and debut in 2023.
“It really is a three legged stool — you have to have the runway infrastructure, you have to have the terminal capabilities and then you can pursue the air service,” Bean said. “That’s what we’ve been doing is successively working at trying to pursue those air service opportunities that are available, that will increase people’s connectivity out of the Palouse and allow the airport to return the investments that the region’s made.”
Bean said the states of Idaho and Washington, the UI and Washington State University as well as local businesses, private individuals and the federal government have contributed money toward the airport’s runway realignment project.
The route is heavily anticipated on the Palouse, with multiple stakeholders saying the service will bolster the local economy.
“High-quality air service is crucial for the economic vitality of the Palouse region. WSU is thrilled that we now have an additional destination from the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport,” WSU spokesman Phil Weiler said. “We will all benefit from this expanded service. Our communities owe a debt of gratitude to the airport staff, airport board and the University of Idaho for working together with Alaska Airlines to make this happen.”
The Moscow Chamber of Commerce has been advocating for direct Boise flights for a long time, in part because a lot of business is done between the Palouse and the Treasure Valley.
Representatives with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman said they are also looking forward to the service. In addition to having an office with about 90 employees in Boise, SEL books more than 700 flights out of the Pullman-Moscow airport every year and it will be a nice change of pace to not have to fly to Seattle to connect with other flights.
Others said being able to connect to flights around the country and the world through Boise is a crucial advantage that will allow the Pullman-Moscow airport to be a conduit between the Palouse and the rest of the world.
“This is more than just a direct flight to Boise, this is additional connections,” said Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, who is also chairperson of the airport’s board of directors. “This gives you more opportunities — gives you more chances — for going to different places. It’s a great move for the whole region.”
Flights to Boise from Pullman will depart at 11:10 a.m. and will arrive at 11:15 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time, while flights to Pullman from Boise will leave at 11:55 PDT and arrive at 1:34 MDT. Tickets are on sale for as low as $89 one way, according to Alaska’s website.