Spokane Journal of Business

Air-cargo drop continues; passenger trips slip, too

Coldwater Creek changes Sandpoint from mail order to retail supply point

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Air-cargo volumes handled at Spokane International Airport fell again in May, continuing a downward trend in air freight and airmail shipments there that began last summer.

Total inbound and outbound air-cargo shipments in May totaled 4,476 tons, down almost 29 percent from 6,272 tons a year earlier. Through the first five months of this year, total air-freight and airmail shipments fell 23.5 percent from the year-earlier period, down to about 23,300 tons from just under 30,500 tons.

Airport spokesman Todd Woodard attributes much of the decline to higher jet-fuel prices, which have jumped by 50 percent over the past year.

What were seeing is cargo moving off planes and onto ground transportation as a result of the rise in the price of jet fuel, Woodard says.

The general slowdown in economic conditions nationwide also has contributed to the reduced air-cargo volume here, Woodard says.

Airmail has been dropping even faster than air freight. During the first five months of the year, airmail shipments at the airport fell more than 26 percent, dropping to under 10,500 tons, from 14,500 tons, while air freight declined by 21 percent, to 12,800 tons from 16,250.

The decline in air-mail shipments from Spokane International corresponds roughly with what a spokesman for Coldwater Creek Inc. describes as the more aggressive year of a two-year reduction in the volume of airmail shipped from its facilities in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Two years ago, approximately 80 percent of our mail orders were being filled out of Sandpoint through Spokane, says David Gunter, Coldwater Creeks director of corporate communications. During the past two years, we have been transitioning our Sandpoint operations from mail order to a retail supply center, shifting our mail order business to our center in Parkersburg, W.Va.

Gunter declines, however, to release the specific tonnage reduction in Coldwater Creeks airmail shipments out of Spokane in recent months.

Anecdotally, Im sure we have substantially contributed to the reduction in airmail shipments from Spokane, but Im also sure that were not responsible for the bulk of the decline, he says.

The sharp drop in air cargo is a divergence from a long trend of growth. Spokane International Airport has racked up an increase in air-cargo shipments every year since 1991.

So far this year, passenger volumes at the airport have declined, too. During the first five months of the year, a total of 1.16 million passengers boarded or departed commercial airline fights at Spokane International, down 3.37 percent from the year-earlier period.

Also, the total number of airline, general aviation, and military flights into and out of the airport fell by about 4 percent, to 45,500 during the first five months of this year, from 41,600 in the first five months last year.

Woodard says the recent decline hasnt caused the airport to drop its plans to construct a $3 million multiuse air-cargo apron, and contractors will begin pouring concrete for the apron this month.

  • Rob Strenge

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