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Another month, another passenger record

As an Allegiant Air flight touched down on the Medford runway recently, a 30-something traveler celebrated the completion of her first flight with a whoop.

Whether it's their first or 50th flight, more travelers are passing through the Medford airport gates than ever.

For the second straight month, the Jackson County-owned airport broke its all-time monthly passenger record, with 81,048 people filling commercial flights to eight destinations. That tops the 80,273 June record as well as the July 2015 mark of 76,578.

Airport spokesperson Kim Stearns said a growing population and falling fuel prices are key contributors to a streak of 23 monthly, year-over-year records.

"There's more discretionary money in people's pockets," Stearns said. "Ticket prices have definitely been driven by what airlines have to spend on fuel. People are shopping for fares, and there are some good fares out there if you are shopping ahead of time."

Through seven months, the airport has seen 463,286 passengers in 2016, a 9.3 percent gain over the same period in 2015. There are 25 daily departures, one more than a year ago.

United Express continued to roll up impressive increases thanks to its conversion to 80-passenger planes from the previous 50-passenger regional jets. United Express saw a 35 percent bump during the month to 24,667 passengers, while its competitors saw small decreases. Alaska Air Group's Horizon Air continues to be the dominant carrier with nearly 38,000 passengers last month.

Medford isn't alone in its journey into record territory. Portland International Airport, where Alaska connects six times daily, is on course to top 18 million passengers this year.

"From a passenger perspective, we're one of ... the fastest-growing airports in the U.S.," said Bill Wyatt, executive director for the Port of Portland, which operates the airport. "We're growing by more than a million this year, and we've seen significant expansion from people like Alaska Airlines."

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will cut its seasonal flights to Arizona next week but is still expanding locations.

"Medford has been a good location for us," Allegiant spokesperson Hilarie Grey said. "We're seeing a lot of demand, and our loads are consistent for Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas."

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.

The Medford airport surpassed 81,000 passengers in July, the airport's busiest month yet. Mail Tribune file photo