Yakima Air Terminal ridership at its lowest level in five years

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Fewer passengers are flying in and out of the Yakima airport. That could hurt the chances of seeing more flights added here. KIMA learned how the city is trying to turn that around.

Keith Gauzza is wrapping up his latest business trip to Yakima. He's heading to Seattle, then Phoenix.

"I get home at midnight and by the time I actually get to my house and get to bed, I'm going to be getting up to work again."

Keith wishes the Yakima Air Terminal had more flights.

"More frequent flights and more options at times to leave."

It's a complaint not lost on Yakima officials. They're trying to convince Alaska Airlines to add a fourth flight. But, the airline wants Yakima to supply more passengers -- about 18 to 20 more a day.

Here's the problem. Ridership on Alaska in and out of the Terminal is at its lowest level in five years.

KIMA took the numbers to Yakima's Economic Development Manager, Sean Hawkins.

"These numbers, they don't really help your case."

"They do not help our case at all," said Hawkins. "But, the one thing that's important to realize is the opportunity is there."

Yakima is trying to seize that opportunity by launching an aggressive marketing campaign in March. And, at the same time, trying to negotiate lower ticket prices with Alaska.

KIMA asked, "Is there any possibility that Alaska would begin a fourth flight in and out of Yakima without any increase in passengers?

"No, I don't think so," said Hawkins.

The passenger drop goes beyond Alaska.

The number of people flying out of Yakima fell by more than 2,000 last year. Some of that because Seaport Airlines' short-term service at the airport ended in 2012. Passengers on chartered flights fell by about 700. Alaska saw 400 fewer passengers.

Like other airports, the Yakima Air Terminal charges departing passengers a fee of $4.50. With 2,000 fewer riders in 2013 than in 2012, the airports has lost thousands. Ticket fees that could have gone to airport improvements.

Despite all this, Hawkins remains confident the city's priority to make the Air Terminal more convenient will give passengers like Keith what they want.

The media campaign for the Yakima Air Terminal will include television and radio ads, as well as a new website.