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Passenger numbers break annual record

The arrival of seasonal perils failed to deter Medford airport passengers, who once again passed through the gates in record numbers last month.

In November, the Jackson County-owned airport matched its all-time mark of 27 consecutive record months, with 65,794 travelers flying in and out of the Rogue Valley.

The airport also eclipsed its annual record with a month still to go in 2016, hitting 758,114 passengers to surpass the record of 757,971 set last year.

After last month's 6.6 percent gain, the passenger count is running 9.3 percent ahead of last year, making the 800,000-passenger plateau a foregone conclusion.

"November was a fantastic month," said airport Director Bern Case, who thinks the streak can run well into 2017.

"The things that ruin a record run are usually out of our control," he said. "When things are good, they can continue to be good. The streak that ended in 2001 was because of 9/11, and the last streak we tied this month ended when the economy dropped off totally in the recession. This time the economics look pretty good, but they can change in a heartbeat. But I'm optimistic we can run this record up a ways."

Although the present 18 daily departures are consistent with a year ago, seat capacity has grown 33 percent. Last December, 2,826 seats were available for booking on an average day. This year there are 3,772 available seats.

"The airlines really try to accommodate holiday travel," Case said. 

United Express surged 21.5 percent, topping the 19,000-passenger mark in November, while Alaska Air saw a 4.6 percent bump to more 34,000 passengers to comfortably retain more than 50 percent of the market. Allegiant Air activity remained flat, while Delta Connection saw a 6.3 percent decline.

Capacity may retreat some after the first of the year because January and February typically are the lowest travel months of the year.

"The airlines put a lot of thought into that stuff," Case said. "We'll be flat or up a little, but I still expect an upward trend."

He anticipates gains of 4 to 5 percent in 2017, compared to nearly double-digit increases of the past year.

"The national passenger statistics are up 3 percent," Case said. "I'm glad the whole nation is up, but I'm glad we're where we're at."

The airport's new snow-removal equipment building south of the terminal will open next week. A public ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday followed by tours.

— 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 its annual record for passengers in November, hitting 758,114 so far this year. Mail Tribune file photo