Humboldt County Airport Gets $850K to Recruit Daily Nonstop Service to Seattle-Tacoma

Aug. 4, 2022

Aug. 3—Editor's note: An earlier version of the online story inaccurately stated Cody Roggatz, the county's aviation director, did not respond to a request for comment.

Humboldt County is getting almost $1 million from the federal government to keep the community's airport alive.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it was awarding $850,000 to the Humboldt County airport near McKinleyville as part of a $16.9 million grant package to 25 small community airports. In its proposal to the DOT, Humboldt County stated the grant funds would be used to "recruit daily nonstop service to Seattle- Tacoma" and that the application is supported by Alaska Airlines.

"As we evaluate our regional network, it would appear to be a fit for service to either our Portland or Seattle- Tacoma hubs," Alaska Airlines wrote in a letter of support.

"In so many of our nation's smaller communities, local air service is crucial to residents' lives and livelihoods," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "We're proud to award these grants to help strengthen local air service in 25 smaller communities and help Americans across the country get to where they need to go more efficiently and affordably."

The new service could be announced as soon as January 2023, according to the proposal.

"The goal is to complete the project by June of 2025. This timeline is realistic because the airport has continued to meet, in person, with Alaska Airlines planners, and the framework for service has already been established. Should Alaska Airlines choose to serve its Portland hub, instead of Seattle- Tacoma, the airport would transition this grant funding to that project."

Up until a few months ago, the county had four airlines providing flights to seven different cities. Before the pandemic, United Airlines was offering service to Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The pandemic increased people's desires to travel to places like Humboldt County, where they could have a socially distanced, outdoor vacation, according to the airport's proposal. That allowed the county to recruit American Airlines, Avelo Airlines and aha! Airlines, but all of those airlines announced the termination of at least one route earlier this year, citing an increase in fuel costs as one of the primary reasons.

Humboldt County intends to use the grant funds "to lower fares and increase air service access to the currently unserved Pacific Northwest," according to its proposal to the DOT. Local organizations Redwood Region Economic Development Commission and the Humboldt Lodging Alliance raised $400,000 in cash to match the grant for a total of $1.25 million going toward the project.

Humboldt County Director of Aviation Cody Roggatz did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0504.


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