Fares rise, fliers dip at Medford airport

Taxis and shuttle vans line up in front of the Medford airport awaiting the arrival of afternoon flights in June 2012. (MT file photo)Bob Pennell

While prices went up, passenger activity went down at the Medford airport in February.

Last month was the slowest February in five years at the county-owned airfield as the head count passing through the gates slipped to 40,239, the fewest since the 36,136 total in 2009.

Chuck Brook, who owns Express Travel in Medford, thinks it's simply a matter of dollars and cents.

"Prices are up across the board, continue to creep up and I don't see any end in sight," Brook said. "Whether it's Las Vegas, Denver, Los Angeles or Miami, you see them creeping up continually."

And while airfares are up for some vacation destinations, such as Hawaii, other price hikes are also putting a damper on travel, he said.

"We've been getting a lot of complaints about airfares being too high," Brook said. "A local lady told us the same trip (to Hawaii) that cost her $2,200 10 years ago now costs $5,000 for hotel, air and car. It just seems like everywhere we check, the prices are going up for all those things. Airlines have found a way to make money with all the additional fees and baggage charges. We haven't seen an increase in what folks are making, but prices continue rising even when wages don't."

For the year, passenger travel at the Medford airport is down 2.9 percent to 81,585 from 84,028 in 2013.

The good news, said, Airport Director Bern Case, is that February's drop was less than January's 3.2 percent decline.

"The economy still has us down a bit," Case said. "Some discretionary travel is being deferred."

Alaska Air Group unit Horizon Air, the top carrier in the market, accounted for half of the total travel and saw a 1.6 percent increase during the month. Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, the smallest of the four carriers, jumped 18.8 percent. Sky West operations United Express (down 15. 2 percent) and Delta Connection (down 6.5 percent) both were well off 2013 levels.

Case said there is one more daily departure than a year ago and added that he expected more flights with spring break and summer coming.

"There aren't a lot of empty seats on the flights we have now, so the yield is pretty good for the airlines," Case said. "The way for us to grow is with additional capacity, and we're going to see some of that this summer."

On the flipside, however, runway re-construction will begin in a few weeks, meaning the airport will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for up to six months.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.


Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.
COUPON OF THE WEEK