Long-term parking at the Walla Walla Regional Airport is in short supply. And that’s a great problem to have.
It’s another indicator air travel into and out of Walla Walla is booming.
Commercial air passenger numbers at the Walla Walla Regional Airport hit a record in 2015. More than 41,000 passengers flew out of the airport in 2015 and a few more than that flew into town. The totals on both ends are 13.7 percent above 2014.
A third flight was recently added to the Alaska Air schedule in Walla Walla, which is boosting the air-travel numbers even higher. That third flight is expected to continue.
Success breeds success.
Affordable and dependable air service is essential to the Walla Walla Valley’s economic success. And that’s why the decision by Port of Walla Walla commissioners to make plans to expand parking at the airport is prudent.
Having abundant — and free — parking at the airport is a major reason people opt to use the Walla Walla Airport. The Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco charges $9 a day for long-term parking and $1.50 an hour for short-term parking. Parking at Sea-Tac Airport can be $28 or more per day.
Having free, easy-access parking at Walla Walla has real appeal, particularly when folks will be gone for a week or more.
The efforts made in recent years to boost air travel, from promotion to shifting the schedule to be more user friendly, have worked very well. It wasn’t all that long ago it was a real possibility Alaska might pull service from Walla Walla.
Now the airport is looking at its third parking lot expansion in three years.
The original lot was built with 139 short-term stalls, 155 long-term stalls and 35 staff stalls. In 2013, there was a $143,000 expansion with 46 short-term stalls on the north end of the existing lot. Last year it added 53 gravel overflow stalls at a cost of $21,000.
“First order of business is getting an engineer on board to provide layout and cost estimates,” said airport Manager Jennifer Skoglund. “Then we’ll bid and see where it goes.”
Given the current winning streak, the direction will likely be in the right direction — up.