Alaska Airlines Begins Jet Service To Walla Walla

The 12:10 p.m. Alaska Airlines jet descends in front of the Blue Mountains into the Walla Walla Regional Airport on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

WALLA WALLA — Horizon Air, the only commercial airlines that flies in and out of Walla Walla, has retired its turboprop Bombardier Q-400 aircraft in favor of faster and more efficient wings.

The Embraer 175’s first time landing on Walla Walla Regional Airport’s runway was Jan. 9.

Walla Walla’s Q-400 first flew at the airport in 2008, and its last flight was Jan. 8., putting the aircrafts use at 14 years.

The E-175 will fly exclusively for Alaska Airlines under a Capacity Purchase Agreement with Horizon Air. The contract, which includes eight new aircraft that will fly to various Horizon Air destinations, is valued at $1.12 billion. Embraer, the brains behind the design of the E-175, is a Brazilian multi-national aerospace manufacturer that produces commercial, military, executive and agricultural aircrafts.

Jennifer Skoglund, manager of the Walla Walla Regional Airport, said the arrival of the new jet was great news for the region.

“We knew it was coming but it really was a question of when,” Skoglund said.

With the new jet, all fliers will either have a window seat or an aisle seat and the overhead bins for stowage in the E-175 are more sizable in comparison to the carry-on storage capacity of the Q-400. Of the 76 seats, 12 have been allocated for first class, 12 for premium and 52 for coach. Three class options mean three price ranges in how people choose to fly. Patrons have the opportunity to purchase Wi-Fi access during the flight as well as access to inflight entertainment.

Not only does the jet have all the bells and whistles but the E-175’s wingtip design helps to improve fuel efficiency and reduces CO2 emissions by more than 6%, Alaska Airlines officials have stated.

The Bombardier Q-400’s typical cruise speed is almost 100 mph slower than the typical cruise speed of the E-175 at 495 mph. The E-175 can climb to a higher altitude than the Q-400 as well. The new jets can fly as high as 41,000 feet.

In an Alaska Airlines news release, Nat Pieper, senior vice president of the fleet, finance and alliances for Alaska Airlines, noted the efficiency and practicality of the upgrade.

“The E175 is an extremely efficient aircraft,” Pieper said. “The jet is the perfect aircraft to serve Horizon’s regional network in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Our guests will enjoy a consistent, three-class cabin experience as they travel from smaller communities to catch flights across Alaska’s larger hubs or on one of our many global airline partners.”

A shiny new jet is not the only improvement for the airport. The Apron Rehabilitation Project and Snow Removal Equipment Building Project, both of which started last summer, already are underway with many other projects in the que.

“We’re working through the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) with grants for all of these projects,” Skoglund said. “We are really trying to make some crucial and important changes here at the airport.”

Skoglund said the airport allows more than just commercial flights to use the runway, too. “LifeFlight, general aviation which can be anyone from your recreational pilot to business jets that fly in, and helicopters to help during wildfire season all use the airport.”

“Airports are an economic engine for the community,” she said. “They move people from Point A to Point B.”

Skoglund said her hopes for the airport’s future lies in getting back the second flight to SeaTac. Last year, Horizon Air announced that a pilot shortage worsened by the pandemic caused the reduced number of flights out of Walla Walla.

“We’ve had good conversations with Alaska Airlines, but it’s a nationwide issue with finding enough pilots to fly the aircrafts,” Skoglund said. “My hopes and desires are that the community will really support getting back those flights.”

Hannah McIntyre can be reached at hmcintyre@wwub.com or 509-526-8301.

Originally published on union-bulletin.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.