Walla Walla Regional Airport Offers New, Faster Jet Service | Business

Horizon Air, the only commercial airline that flies to and from Walla Walla, has retired its Bombardier Q-400 turboprop aircraft in favor of faster, more efficient wings.

The Embraer 175 landed on the runway at the Walla Walla Regional Airport for the first time on Monday, January 9th.

The Walla Walla company’s Q-400 aircraft first flew at the airport in 2008, with its last flight on Sunday, Jan. 8, marking 14 years of service.

The E-175 will fly exclusively for Alaska Airlines under a capacity purchase agreement, or CPA, 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 E-175 design, is a Brazilian multinational aircraft manufacturer that produces commercial, military, business and agricultural aircraft.

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

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

With the new jet, all flyers will have a window seat or an aisle seat, and the E-175’s overhead storage compartments are larger compared to the Q-400’s carry-on capacity. Of the 76 seats, 12 are reserved for first class, 12 for premium and 52 for buses. Three class options mean three price ranges in how people choose to fly. Patrons have the opportunity to purchase in-flight Wi-Fi access as well as access to in-flight entertainment.

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

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

In an Alaska Airlines press release, Nat Pieper, senior vice president of fleet, finance and alliances for Alaska Airlines, highlighted the efficiency and convenience of the upgrade.

“The E175 is an extremely efficient aircraft,” said Pieper. “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 via Alaska’s larger hubs or on one of our many global airline partners.”

A shiny new jet isn’t the only improvement for the airport. The apron restoration project and snow removal equipment construction project, which started last summer, are already underway with many other projects at this stage.

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

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

“Airports are the economic engine of a community,” she said. “They move people from point A to point B.”

Skoglund said her hopes for the future of the airport lie in bringing back a second flight to SeaTac. Last year, Horizon Air announced that a pilot shortage exacerbated by the pandemic caused the reduced number of flights from Walla Walla.

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

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