Air travel to smaller markets like Wenatchee is changing because of rapidly rising costs. 

Airlines are offsetting the spike in costs by flying bigger aircraft that have many more seats but aren't much more expensive to operate than regional jets. 

Managing Partner Jack Penning with Volaire Aviation, the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority’s air travel consultant, says it won't be that long before Wenatchee gets much larger, mainline aircraft flying in that normally travel to much larger markets. 

"I'm not thinking about next year, but I'm thinking about 2030, this is likely a 737 market," said Penning. "Large planes to overcome increased costs." 

Penning says the Pangborn runway extension to 7,000 in 2016 will prove to be critically important when larger 737s start flying into the airport. That expansion came with a $30 million price tag. 

In addition, Pangborn replaced its 95,000-square-foot asphalt apron with 160,000 square feet of more durable concrete recently. 

Part of the taxiway was also relocated to place it closer to the runway.  

The $12 million project, which took place over the last two summers, gives the airport space to park aircraft as large as a Boeing 737. 

The reason for the rising costs has to do with fuel costs, an ongoing pilot shortage and pilot salaries, that nearly doubled in the past year. 

Meanwhile, the changing habits of air travelers is changing the way airlines schedule their flights, and it'll likely affect Wenatchee. 

Business travel has not rebounded from the pandemic, which has led airlines to reduce or eliminate flights on low traffic days. 

Penning says Wenatchee's pattern of lower passenger traffic during mid-week days will alter the schedule of any new service to the airport. 

"I think it's more likely in our case, if we can get up to that third flight that we would see that third flight added only on specific days."  

Wenatchee now has two daily flights to Seattle after service was slashed from three flights to one last year.  

Penning gave a presentation on the airport during a meeting of the Chelan Douglas Port Authority this week. The Port owns and operates Pangborn Airport.  

During the presentation, Penning said any new flights to different destinations than Seattle will likely come from a low-cost carrier that will only fly to Wenatchee on certain days of the week. 

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