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America West Express begins new daily service between Phoenix and Medford

A Dixieland jazz band played, onlookers applauded, and unseasonable morning fog burned off in time to welcome the first America West Express flight from Phoenix, Ariz., on Tuesday.

It was a beautiful flight all the way, said Les Phillips, who, with his wife, Virginia, deplaned onto a red carpet.

The flight was comfortable and smooth, according to the couple who moved from the Rogue Valley to Arizona four years ago, and they plan to fly the route in the future.

America West Express, operated by Mesa Air Group, began new daily service between its Phoenix hub and Medford. America West Express is a regional airline and a route partner with national carrier America West Airlines, the nation's eighth-largest carrier. Both companies are based in Phoenix.

Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport Director Bern Case said he's thrilled with the new business.

It gives us an additional hub going to the east and a good fare structure, he said.

America West was on the verge of bankruptcy following the Sept. 11 attacks until the company received a &

36;429 million loan, &

36;380 million of which is guaranteed by the federal government.

Case said he believes the company is doing well now.

I think they're being cautious, but I think they're in good shape, said Case.

Jackson County will reimburse up to &

36;100,000 in the next year for the airlines to advertise the new service.

All Medford flights go to Phoenix, and from there travelers may connect to more than 60 destinations across the United States and Mexico. Reservations are made via America West Airlines.

The America West Express fleet consists of Canadair Regional Jets, which seat up to 50 passengers.

The smaller aircraft is what will help them succeed at the Rogue Valley airport where other airlines have not, said Case.

Before, it would take a hundred to fill a plane, he said. Now, the company succeeds with only 40 passengers, he said.

Many welcome the new option.

It's a really good thing, said Mark Zouzas, of Travelhost travel agency.

Standard round-trip fares are comparable to United Airlines' fares, he said.

However, a last-minute one-way ticket to Kansas City is &

36;395 on America West compared with United's &

36;869, said Zouzas.

Short-notice fares ' that's where the big advantage is, he said.

Zouzas said that he's been booking flights for customers on America West Express out of Portland and Eugene, and once the company announced they were coming to Medford, people began booking those flights.

Another advantage for travelers, said Zouzas, is that America West has no Saturday overnight stay requirement.

He said that as a travel agent he's excited to have the new company on board.

We're pleased with it, he said.

Mesa Air Group also operates U.S. Airways Express (as a route partner with U.S. Airways), Frontier JetExpress (as a partner with Frontier Airlines), Midwest Express Airlines and Mesa Airlines.

America West Express flights depart Medford in the morning. Flights from Phoenix arrive in the afternoon. Reservation information is available at 800-235-9292 and .

A ground crew worker for America West Express heads in Tuesday after guiding in the first America West Express plane to land in Medford. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell