YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima is hiring a consultant to help it expand commercial flights at Yakima Air Terminal.

Yakima City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a contract worth about $48,000 with up to $25,000 in incentives with Airplanners LLC of Avon, Colo.

The airport’s future hangs on expanding the frequency and destinations of its commercial flights, City Manager Tony O’Rourke told the council prior to the vote.

The airport currently only offers three flights to and from a single destination: Seattle. To fly to anywhere else often requires long layovers or backtracking, such as flying west to Seattle for a flight to Denver.

“I’ve been trying to make flight arrangements to Colorado, and believe me, it’s a nightmare,” O’Rourke said in an interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic.

That inconvenience means travelers opt to go to Seattle and Pasco, which offer far more flights and airlines. Losing the regional market has contributed to Yakima Air Terminal losing money in recent years, he said.

The city is currently in the process of becoming the sole owner of the airport, which it jointly owns with Yakima County.

Those financial struggles, as well as costly litigation and a revolving door of management prompted the county to offer to give the city sole ownership. City and county staff are working out the language for a final agreement to transfer ownership, which could be ready by February.

Airplanners beat out Mead & Hunt Inc. of Eugene, Ore., for the contract.

• Dan Catchpole can be reached at 509-759-7850 or dcatchpole@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/dcatchpole.