Airport's November proves to be second best in its history

It pushes yearly passenger count closer to highest ever

The second-best November in Medford airport history suggests a similar outcome for all of 2012.

The Jackson County-operated airport saw 51,399 travelers pass through its gates last month, boosting the 2012 total to 590,640 with December to go.

The best November on record was in 2007, when 52,174 passengers flew in or out of the Rogue Valley. That also was the year when the all-time mark of 647,471 was set.

November was the fifth-straight month of improved numbers over 2011, and there have been few weather-related or mechanical cancellations. "It's hard to pin it on any one thing," Airport Director Bern Case said, noting two charter flights carrying Southern Oregon University's football team to NAIA playoff games in Iowa factored into the count.

Delta Connection saw a 13.3 percent passenger gain, Alaska Air Group unit Horizon Air was up 11.7 percent and Allegiant Air grew 6 percent. United Express, however, fell more than 1 percent.

Air travel appears to have weathered financial and logistical challenges, said TravelHost owner Marilyn Somics. "People didn't travel as much because of the economy," Somics said. "Now it seems they have a little more change in their pocket. There's been a repressed desire to travel. You combine that with our population growth and the price of travel has not really increased as much as a lot of other things have."

The four commercial airlines coming to Medford provide enough options that once-routine drives to catch flights out of Portland or Sacramento have significantly diminished. "We have more options and choices," she said. "Airfares out of Medford are pretty common rates, and if there are any differences, it's not worth the drive or a potential overnight stay."

Stable fuel prices have contributed to the solid run, Case said.

"The airlines get nervous when oil gets over $100 a barrel, and lately it's been closer to $83 or $85," he said.

Like a manager in a baseball pennant race, Case has a magic number to secure what amounts to a victorious year. If it gets to slightly more than 49,000 passengers in December, the airport could top 2010's total of 639,679, the second-best year on record. "We need 49,040 passengers, and I think we can make that," said Case. "We would need 52,658 to make it a record December, but if we're over 50,000, I'll be pretty thrilled."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com.


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