Airport has third-best September on record

Medford airfield chief expects year to end well

The gold standard for passenger activity at the Medford airport — achieved in the third quarter of 2012 — proved unbeatable once again in September.

Even the third-best September on record, when 54,615 travelers passed through the gates, seemed soft in comparison to a year ago when 56,077 filed through the gates.

The 188,845 passengers flying in and out of the Rogue Valley from July 1 through Sept. 30 last year is a mark Airport Director Bern Case figures will stand for a while — overshadowing even very good months. The 179,674 passenger count during the past three months was 4.9 percent off the 2012 total.

"That 2012 third quarter was the greatest we've ever had," Case said. "Comparing this September to last year is no big deal, I'm not feeling bad about it."

For much of the year, Case harbored hopes of eclipsing the all-time annual mark of 647,471 passengers set in 2008. But that seems unlikely now.

"I think we can end up being above last year, because we're only down a third of a percent right now," Case said.

"The record is not going to happen, but I think we'll be pretty close to last year."

Alaska Air Group unit Horizon Air and Delta Connection posted nearly 6 percent year-over-year gains during the month, while United was up a fraction. Allegiant tumbled by more than 53 percent, partially because it was flying to fewer destinations than a year ago.

Two Allegiant flights were scrubbed on Sept. 22 when the FAA grounded the Las Vegas airline's fleet of 52 MD-80s so the inflatable exit chutes on the 146-passenger planes could be inspected.

"It didn't hurt us as bad as some airports, because they only fly in here Thursdays and Sundays, and we were back up the next Thursday," Case said.

An elongated government shutdown or default may have bitten into October numbers. The debt-ceiling deal, however, will be beneficial during the Christmas holidays, he said.

"The fact they kicked the can down the road isn't going to hurt," Case said. "People who were wondering about holidays know for sure now, and I think that's a nice reprieve."

Factoring in Allegiant's limited schedule, there are an average of 181/2; daily departures, Case said, the same as a year ago. He said Allegiant plans to resume flights to Los Angeles later this month.

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


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