Airport logs near-record April

Airline passengers line-up to go through security checks as they enter the waiting area for Monday morning flights. Mail Tribune / Bob PennellBob Pennell

The Medford airport saw its second-busiest April ever as commercial air travel continued to rebound following an eight-month swoon.

The 49,897 travelers passing through the gates were topped only by the 51,798 in April 2007 — the all-time record year for the airport.

"You look at the first four months of 2007 and we had 183,500 passengers," Airport Director Bern Case said. "We've had 183,633 this year, so we're actually ahead of the 2007 pace."

Last year started off with a bang as well, before tailing off dramatically.

"We're still trailing last year by a small amount, but I'm hoping things will be like 2007, when the numbers got bigger and better as the year went on," Case said.

While nighttime refurbishing takes place on the main runway next Monday, potentially disrupting some passenger flow, the curtailment of United flights to Klamath Falls in June will likely boost passenger activity. The present 18 daily departures mirrors the 2013 total, Case said.

"Construction is a very small negative," he said. "It's going to be a very tough year to call, but we're optimistic we're going to have a good year."

Alaska Air Group's Horizon Air saw an 11.8 percent increase during April, accounting for well over half the passenger totals. Allegiant, which was running regular flights to Mesa, Ariz., a year ago, dropped 19.7 percent, while United Express fell 9.8 percent and Delta Connection was off 7.8 percent.

Case said Horizon has added an additional flight, perhaps in response to United's pending exit from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls.

In the months since United and Continental merged, the airline has announced additional international flights but little new domestic service.

"United and Delta look for their money out of their hub airports, not the small-town flights," Case said.

Although April ticked up by half a percent over last year's 49,671 passenger figure, this year's count still trails the first four months of 2013 by 0.2 percent.

Case said he hopes to see additional travel options, but they may not appear until next year.

"The American/USAir merger gave us new people to talk with and I'm optimistic about that," he said. "But it's probably going to happen in 2015."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at Edge

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