The Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport is seeking a federal small community air service development grant to help restore flights to Seattle or another West Coast destination.
That update was shared by Lewiston Airport Director Michael Isaacs, who also announced the transportation hub is getting $1 million in the second round of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money during an online presentation for the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Letters of support from area businesses will improve the airport’s chances of getting the air service grant, which has to be submitted no later than Monday, Isaacs said.
“We all understand how important that is to the valley,” he said.
The only direct commercial passenger flights from Lewiston go to Salt Lake City on SkyWest after Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air withdrew from the community two years ago.
The Salt Lake City flights are going three times a day on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, Isaacs said, adding that passenger volumes have suffered because of coronavirus.
“It’s been pretty challenging to say the least,” Isaacs said. “We ended the year with about 25 percent of what we had in 2019, which is pretty (in line with) industry standard.”
Seeking the federal air service grant is just part of the effort to expand routes. The Idaho Legislatue’s interim Intrastate Air Services Committee will hear a report from consultant Mead & Hunt about options for flights between Boise and Lewiston and other Idaho cities at the end of the month at the committee’s last meeting.
Any solutions the committee identifies will likely take a couple years “to really come to fruit,” said committee co-chairman Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston. “We have some really interesting ideas in the hopper.”
As the Lewiston airport works on expanding air service it will be considering how to spend the $1 million it is getting through the CARES Act.
Taxiway and terminal improvements as well as developing the south side of the airport for airport hangars and aeronautics businesses are possibilities, Isaacs said.
The $1 million is in addition to $1.2 million the airport received in the first round of the CARES Act.
Besides improving air service and upgrading infrastructure, the airport is also monitoring ticket prices and working with its air service consultant to encourage airlines to maintain reasonable fares, Isaacs said.
Boarding passes purchased less than three weeks before traveling from Lewiston can be “really ridiculously expensive,” he said.
But there are good deals for those who book earlier such as $300 round trips to places like Orlando, Fla., Isaacs said.
“You definitely want to take a look,” he said.
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