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Medford airport sets all-time record for passengers

Medford airport Director Bern Case had to pinch himself earlier this week as he reviewed June's passenger numbers.

"I thought we might break 70,000 the way things have been going," Case said. "July and August are usually our busiest months, but this dwarfs our best months substantially."

A record 72,463 passengers traveled in and out of the Rogue Valley in June, a jump of nearly 10,000 over last June's 62,820 figure and well beyond the previous all-time high of 66,388 set in July 2012.

"I guess the TSA guys don't realize how hard they've been working," Case said.

Not only was June's passenger count up 15.4 percent year-over-year, but the overall count of 347,125 for the first six months of 2015 is 15.4 percent ahead of 2014. The half-year count also exceeds the entire year's passenger total from 1978 through 1995, with the exception of 1987.

"The larger aircraft of some of the airlines definitely made up the difference," Case said. "And the ones they are using are packed."

June saw 18 daily departures, with 19 in July.

"We're up 273 passengers a day over last year," Case said. "For June, it was 323 per day. We've had a passenger arriving or departing every 36 seconds." 

For the sake of comparison with the nation's busiest airports, planes take off and land about every 36 seconds.

The Medford airport isn't alone in its upswing.

Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Airport has announced expanded service, with a daily flight to San Jose by Alaska Air Group's Horizon unit.

United Express has initiated two flights per week between North Bend and Denver. 

Case said he would like to see San Jose and San Diego as additional destinations from Medford.

"It's been tougher and tougher to get new destinations, because we've got all the easy pickings to Denver, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas," Case said. "We'd like to get San Jose and San Diego, but it's a little harder because we're competing with San Francisco. Eugene getting its Alaska route to San Jose is probably good for us, we have the same potential.

"We're not the only airport doing good, but success in airports makes it easier to get more success."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/EconomicEdge.

Note: A portion of this story has been corrected to more accurately reflect Eugene airport data.

The Medford airport set an all-time record for passengers in June. Mail Tribune file photo