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Airport targets destination to the East

Medford airport officials are seeking local support for a new direct flight to the middle of the country that could make it easier to get to the East Coast.

“We are pursuing a grant in our efforts to a secure a flight to the East,” said Jason Foster, air service and economic development manager at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport.

The Chamber of Medford and Jackson County and Travel Medford already have lent their support to the new route.

“Our effort is to garner and show as much community support as we can,” Foster said.

If successful, the airport hopes to begin a direct flight to a major hub such as Dallas, Chicago or Minneapolis by next year depending on negotiations with an airline.

Foster said the airport has reached out to businesses and organizations to submit letters and possibly add contributions to help show support for the grant.

Foster said he hopes to raise $100,000 to show strong local backing for the competitive Small Community Air Service Development Grant from U.S. Department of Transportation.

Letters of support should be sent by Feb. 12 to Foster at fosterjt@jacksoncounty.org.

Businesses and organizations are encouraged to submit statistics to show how many times their representatives fly to particular destinations.

If a direct flight to Dallas-Fort Worth can be secured, for instance, it would make 100 additional cities in the East accessible from Medford with just one stop, Foster said.

He expects the new route would operate five to seven days a week.

The airport has 11 direct flights to destinations throughout the West.

Currently the furthest east you can fly directly from Medford is Denver.

Foster said a new direct flight to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, starts Feb. 12. The Allegiant flight will be offered Sundays and Thursdays.

Allegiant offers the most direct flights to Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, San Diego, Las Vegas and San Francisco. The Arizona and San Diego flights are seasonal.

Alaska offers direct flights to Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle.

Delta flies directly to Salt Lake City and Seattle, and United has direct flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver.

While Allegiant offers the most direct flights, the other airlines haul more passengers.

Because of the pandemic, the number of Medford airport passengers dropped by 53.24% in 2020 compared to 2019. Still, some 500,000 passengers flew out of the airport last year.

A typical flight was about 60% full last year compared to the mid-80% range in a normal year.

Foster said the airport anticipates surging back quickly to more than 1 million passengers once travel picks up again.

The new terminal, which opened in 2009, is already being eyed for expansion to keep up with passenger volume.

Foster said the master plan calls for expanding the terminal to add more gates and another baggage conveyor belt.

The expansion is targeted for the next seven to 10 years.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Medford established the state’s first airport in 1922 Mail Tribune / File Photo