After years in the shipping desert, two more flights will arrive at Yakima Airport, but it comes at a heavy cost.
SEATTLE — City of Yakima must contribute $500,000 to bring two Alaska Airlines flights back between Yakima and Seattle.
Many contributions and commitments come directly from the community.
As fields of hops stretch across the Yakima Valley, they account for about 75% of the world’s hops.
“We’re the real heart of it,” Bob Gerst told John I. Haas, who says the company has been an industry leader for the past 109 years.
“Our customers, those brewers, come from all over the country and around the world, so they go to Seattle and then they get stuck,” says Gerst.
That’s why an additional Alaska Airlines flight arriving in late fall is so urgent.
“Additional flights remove the barrier when they come in to exercise those options,” says Gerst.
Currently, there is a flight that arrives at Yakima at 13 pm and leaves around 2 pm. New flights will leave Yakima early in the morning and return at night. “I think we’re going to see an increase in early morning departures,” said Robert Hodgman, Director of Yakima Airport.
Catching return flights is not free.
“The community is a bit confused. Why do we have to pay this money to get this flight back?” Hodgman said.
Alaska Airlines requires a $500,000 minimum revenue guarantee.
“Given the current state of the aviation industry recovering from the pandemic, there are a lot of costs associated with expanding service,” Hodgman said.
Alaska Airlines recently announced that it will resume additional daily flights for Walla Walla, Wenatchee and Yakima. Each city must give up $500,000.
John I. Haas, along with other community businesses contributed to the fund.
“It removes a barrier that we don’t need to have from a business standpoint. Right now, the market is tough enough for everyone,” says Gerst.
“Not having access to flights is an important barrier,” said Jodi Daly, CEO of Holistic Healthcare.
Daly said she has lost qualified employees because of Yakima desert traffic, “People want to be able to get to places pretty easily.”
Holistic Healthcare has committed $25,000 to the fund which now stands at $418,000. The city’s contract with Alaska Airlines is for one year.
“We sent a message to the community that was, ‘Hey, we really need you to come, show up and book your place,’ Hodgman said.
Allow the community to work on what it does best.
“We hope that there is enough flight usage,” says Gerst.
Two flights will resume on November 17 with additional flights taking place in September to help with the hops harvest.