EXCLUSIVE: No correlation between Convention Center and Airport usage

The Convention Center is said to be an economic driver that brings in outside visitors to Spokane, and this is the justification for continually expanding the facilities.  In just a few years, the PFD will seek additional taxes to expand again.

Does this economic driver work? Here is a comparison of airport usage versus convention center usage. Visually, there is no correlation; statistically, the R-squared value of the correlation is 1.6% (meaning zilch correlation).


If the Convention Center brings in outside visitors, they do not arrive by air or the number is so insignificant as to have no impact.

The air passenger data was scaled to a similar range to the Convention Center attendance for the purpose of comparison. In the chart above, the Y-axis shows convention center attendance; multiply by 10 for the air passenger number.

There is no correlation with jobs, either.

The top 2 largest events account for more than 25% of all usage:

  • Bloomsday, 47,346 people
  • PNQ Volleyball, 44,461 people

Outside of those two events, the remaining events average less than 700 people per day, the rest of the year. 

The Convention Center was just expanded so it can accommodate large events. Unfortunately, for a facility designed to accommodate up to 6,500 people, actual utilization is closer to 10% of best case, most of the year.

Spokane Convention Center Usage By Month


Spokane Arena By Month

For many months, the facility is almost unused.


Spokane INB Performing Arts Center

The INB Performing Arts Center is barely used for several months of the year.

SpokaneINBByMonthAll charts come from the SpokanePFD.org web site and the 2014 end of year annual report produced by the Spokane PFD.

Keep this in mind when in 2 or 3 more years, the Spokane PFD comes asking for more money for yet another expansion of their empty facilities.

Hoopfest Ironman

EXCLUSIVE: Spokane Airport Passenger usage charts, updated to 2015

Data through April 2015. Chart extrapolates the first 4 months to the full year for 2015.

With a slight growth in air passenger traffic, annual air passenger total usage is now roughly the same (corrected) still below 1995 and about the same as the year 2000.  Overall passenger use of the airport has been essentially flat for two full decades.

If recent growth continues, air passenger levels may reach the 2007 peak in about 2018 or 2019.






Spokane Airports Update for June 2011

The data in chart form. Data for the first 6 months is used to estimate the remainder of the year 2011.

While the first six months enplanements are down -2.36%, the month of June is down -5.5% total which could be an early indicator that the economy is softening again but it is too early to tell for sure.

(Update: Port of Seattle shipments have declined -10.3% starting in May and continuing in June. BNSF and UP are carrying roughly equal freight loads to one year ago as of a few weeks ago, and one year ago was considerably less than prior to 2008. Bulk shipments of coal and grain by rail are also down about -10% YoY. Combined with the local airport numbers, this does look like the possible start of a new downturn.)

The official press release concerning SIA:

Note the reference to the use of airport data as an indicator of the local economic situation in Spokane. Even the tiniest increase shows “the local economy continues to improve”. Odd, though, how all the decreases in airport usage and service apparently indicate no changes in the local economy!

Charter aircraft services out of SIA are down -46.3% since last year.  Charters have been below last year for 4 of the preceding 6 months, and sharply lower in June, with a decrease of -77%. But cargo is indeed up slightly, which is good.

It seems likely that 2011 passenger enplanements will be just below 2010, and 2012 is likely to be at or slightly below 2011 levels due to the loss of the Southwest flights to Seattle. But things could change for the better in 2012. While Alaska Air will add 2 flights to replace those lost by Southwest, Alaska will be flying smaller aircraft with just over 1/2 the seats that Southwest provided.

The official press release concerning Felts:

While June cargo at Felts Field is up for June, for the year, cargo through Felts Field is down -45%.

After a couple of months of good weather, we may have a better understanding as to whether the first half Felts Field traffic drop was due to weather or something else.

REMINDER: The airport is a proxy for the local economy. The fall off in flights, non-stop destinations and passengers is primarily a reflection of the local and national economy . The data suggest that Spokane’s economy is doing worse than elsewhere. The data presented do not mean that airport management is (presently) doing a bad job, although their PR spin is amusing.

Trend in Spokane “International” Airport Passenger Levels Versus National Air Passenger Levels

This picture was taken from the Spokane Intern...

Image via Wikipedia

Trend in passenger growth (or loss) at Spokane “International” Airport versus Total National Air Passengers.

In this chart, the national total has been re-scaled to start at the same point as the Spokane total in order to compare the local growth rate (or loss) with the national growth rate in air travel. The data for Spokane come from SpokaneAirports.net and the national data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Ignore the Y-Axis numbers as they are meaningless in the trend comparison due to re-scaling.

The start date of 1996 is because that is the oldest data available at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The end date is 2010, the most recent full year of data.


  • Compare the starting point of the blue line to the ending point of the blue line. As you can see, national air traffic has increased over this time.
  • Compare the starting point of the red line to the end point of the red line.
  • Passengers at Spokane “International” Airport have gone down over this period while overall national air passenger levels have gone up.
  • Only in the period of about 2005 to 2010, does Spokane perform better. However, so far in 2011, Spokane has gone down while national air passenger counts have gone up by about 2%. 2011 is not shown in the chart.

This chart was added to the previous post to keep the charts on SIA performance (or lack thereof) in a single place.

REMINDER: The airport is a proxy for the local economy. The fall off in flights, non-stop destinations and passengers is primarily a reflection of the local and national economy . The data suggest that Spokane’s economy is doing worse than elsewhere. The data presented do not mean that airport management is (presently) doing a bad job, although their PR spin is amusing.

Southwest to abandon Seattle-Spokane route and SIA is not honest about it


Image by shankool007 via Flickr

UpdateSince this was written, Alaska/Horizon announced it will add 2 additional turbo prop flights to the Spokane-Seattle route.  Alaska did not publicly announce their price hike, but in their reservation system, the price went up..

Southwest to abandon Seattle-Spokane route – Spokesman.com – July 27, 2011.

  1. Claim: Airport spokesperson says there are 20 daily flights on Alaska/Horizon to Seattle.
    Reality: There will be 3 jet flights and 13 turbo prop (propeller planes – just like a rural town) direct to Seattle. That’s 16, not 20. Four additional flights go to Portland where you can change planes, then go to Seattle. Total travel time including TSA groping and so on is longer than just driving. This is easy to check at Alaskaair.com.
  2. Claim: The airport spokesperson says Alaska is not raising fares.
    Reality:  On the Alaska web site, their lowest cost fare option vanishes in January the day before Southwest flights end. This is easy to check.
  3. Claim: The article says an expansion of flights “to Denver in recent years” adds more options.
    Reality: Except there appears to have been a 1/3d drop in flights to Denver this past year. Again, easy to check.
  4. Claim: The airport spokesperson suggests Spokane travelers can fly to “Denver and Phoenix” and then transfer to Seattle.
    Reality: That does not pass the giggle test – that takes far, far longer than just driving to Seattle! We are not idiots.

PR spin or outright lies? You decide.

Many are looking at the air travel situation and realizing we may need to move out of Spokane. It takes a day to get places that I used to get to in 2 to 2 1/2 hour flights, and with lack of options, I may have to stay over an extra night in a hotel.

Filed under “Crime” because the airport is being dishonest. Separately, the SR reporter /editor should have verified or clarified those statements for the reader.

REMINDER: The airport is a proxy for the local economy. The fall off in flights, non-stop destinations and passengers is primarily a reflection of the local and national economy . The data suggest that Spokane’s economy is doing worse than elsewhere. The data presented do not mean that airport management is (presently) doing a bad job, although their PR spin is amusing.

Spokane Airports Update

Total passengers remain below 1996 levels . 2011 data is estimated from operations through May of 2011. Passenger travel through SIA has been flat for about 16 years.

Air Cargo has fallen sharply. 2011 value is estimated from current data through May of 2011. While the overall trend is down, there has been a slight increase in 2011.

General aviation operations at Felts Field have collapsed. The airport blames the weather.  Weather is a factor, but high fuel prices and an insufficient local economy may be larger factors.  Area fuel prices are about $6 to $7 per gallon and $5 to $6 per gallon in Idaho.

The data suggest that like a decade ago, the new airport Master Plan is already out of date.  Here’s the year 2000 forecast for passenger boardings and cargo loading at SIA:

Here’s the official Airports press release.

Lawrence J. Krauter, Airport Director, Spokane International Airport, commented, “What
is notable about May’s performance is that enplanements were only down 2.5% against a
12% reduction in available seats, which indicates that demand remains strong from our

In the context of the old forecasts, that quote is hilariously funny.

A news story updates the concrete pouring at Spokane International Airport:

Getting There: Runway work reaches halfway point at airport – Spokesman.com – July 11, 2011.

Pouring concrete at SIA, says the story is “an important component of Spokane’s economy” and seems to be a primary purpose for SIA. Read the whole story.

While involvement in this web site has been cut back, we intend to continue updating the airport, general employment and income reports as these are important economic indicators for Spokane.

Spokane Airport passenger traffic update

Update: The May 2011 numbers are available and its worse than expected.


As of April 2011, passenger counts are running almost the same as 2010, suggesting 2011 will remain similar to or below 1996 passenger levels.

Airport passenger counts are a proxy indicator of the local economy. This suggests that Spokane’s economy is still stuck.

Felts Field air traffic has fallen a sharp 18.34% since a year earlier. Possibly due to the high cost of fuel – and (update) bad weather. (Update – if due to bad weather, we should see improvements in July and August. If we do not, then the problem lies elsewhere. Traffic was also down for May 2011.)

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