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With the Medford airport booming, don't be late

With larger planes on the tarmac and two more daily departures than a year ago, some folks mistakenly think they can show up at the airport and score a last-minute deal.

"Most people are ignorant of the fact the planes are flying full," said Chuck Brook of Express Travel in Medford. "I deal with people all over the country, and I still get people calling in thinking they can get a last-minute deal."

With the Medford airport on a 20-month record binge, late arrivals might not even get a seat, let alone a good deal.

"It's not like the good ol' days when you could get a steep discount at the last minute," Brook said. "You're going to pay higher prices, and you won't likely be assigned a seat until you hit the counter at the airport."

In April, 61,539 passengers flew in and out of Medford, 7.1 percent more than the April 2015 total of 57,060.

Alaska Air Group's Horizon Air unit has beefed up its Bombardier Q400 schedule, and Allegiant Air is flying more Airbus 319s into the Rogue Valley, airport Director Bern Case said. The European-made Airbus planes seat about 180 passengers, up from 150 held by the MD-80s that are being phased out.

"The Airbus compares favorably to (Boeing) 737s," Case said. "When they're sitting on the ramp, you really have to know your aircraft to tell them apart."

Even with SkyWest using Embraer 175s for many of its United Express and Delta Connection flights, they generally fly full or nearly full, Brook said.

"Visually checking flights, they're filling up sooner," Brook said. "We're a lot closer to 100 percent out of Medford than Portland or San Francisco."

Case said he figured there would be an upturn during 2009, after local air travel dipped below 600,000 passengers, but he is little short of amazed by the present streak.

"It's a sign that we're pretty healthy right now," he said.

Next week Allegiant will resume service to Mesa, Ariz., something it's done seasonally in recent years.

"I'm hoping at some point they will keep it permanent," he said.

For the year, passenger traffic is up 8.6 percent, to 231,551. United Express travel jumped 23.9 percent in April, while Alaska grew 4.3 percent. Delta Connection was off 2.6 percent and Allegiant slumped 12.2 percent.

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