Local

Connection Made

East Oregonian | Oct. 18, 2012 1:05 a.m. | Updated: Oct. 18, 2012 8:05 a.m.

Contributed By:

CHRIS RIZER

Daily Astorian

SeaPort Airlines passengers flying out of Pendleton will soon be able to connect with Alaska Airlines flights in Portland.

With one ticket, Eastern Oregon Regional Airport passengers will be able check their bags in Pendleton and connect with other flights out of Portland International Airport. But the airline first must solve a software issue that delayed the partnership announcement 20 days.

“There’s one small, minor glitch between the two systems that they’re working on daily, and the minute they’ve got that corrected it’s all systems go,” said Airport Manager Larry Dalrymple.

One-ticket booking will allow Alaska Airlines to reschedule flights for passengers who miss the gate in Portland because of delays in Pendleton. And customers will be able to book flights from other cities to Pendleton, Dalrymple said.

But to meet Transportation Security Administration regulations, the deal will cost all Pendleton-bound passengers time to go through security, even if they didn’t fly to another destination out of Portland. During peak travel times — around 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. — this could take passengers 45 minutes to an hour.

But only SeaPort passengers connecting with another flight will have to go through security in Portland, SeaPort Airlines Chief Pilot Noel McDermott told the East Oregonian September 7.

Those changes won’t happen until passengers are able to connect with Alaska Airlines, Dalrymple said.

“If you’re just going to go back-and-forth from Pendleton to Portland I don’t think you’re going to like this,” said Pendleton City Manager Robb Corbett. “But (SeaPort) is the expert and they’re saying we’re going to see a spike in traffic, so we don’t have any reason not to believe them.”

The partnership is part of a plan to boost business at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport. To help the airport break even, the city gives it a $2 million limit to borrow from other city funds at two percent interest.

The changes won’t happen, though, if the U.S. Department of Transportation selects another airline to operate out of Pendleton starting January 1.

It has also received a bid from Sovereign Air and will make a decision by early December.

At its Wednesday meeting the commission requested more information from SeaPort after Timothy Sieber, vice president of strategy and corporate development, proposed the carrier continue flying out of Pendleton.

The commission hasn’t sought more information about Sovereign Air because the company didn’t show for the meeting.

The commission expects responses from SeaPort by Oct. 31 and tentatively plan to vote on SeaPort’s offer at Pendleton city council’s November 6 meeting. Council will either recommend SeaPort operate out of Pendleton for two or four years, or for Sovereign to operate there for two years.

Wednesday’s airport commission meeting discussion included consulting with SeaPort on how to spend a $50,000 USDOT marketing grant it received in early September. The airport applied for the grant with its goal of increasing passengers.

Dalrymple said city council will have to approve fronting the money for the airport, which will be reimbursed by USDOT. After receiving council approval, the airport commission will work out the specifics of using the grant. It must be used within a year of when the airport first starts spending it.

Sieber suggested working together to devise a game plan with the goal of starting to use the funds after January 1.

“They know the ins and the outs of commercial air service marketing,” Dalrymple said. “Rather than go out and hire a consultant, we can go out and tap the brains that are available for us via SeaPort.”

Contact Chris Rizer at crizer@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.

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