Feb. 5--The Medford airport saw a 12 percent gain in passenger traffic during January, marking the eighth-straight month of increases from a year earlier.
January 2009 passenger activity fell by 16 percent, and February 2009 slumped 17 percent. As a result, it wasn't until after strong peak travel months that the numbers looked good.
"Last year, we got off to a sucky start, and we were trying to catch up the next two or three months," Airport Director Bern Case said. "It was one of those real dips last year. We expected to be up, but anytime you're up 12 percent that's a good month."
January travel was boosted by five weekends, and Sundays are particularly good travel days, Case said.
"Another thing we're watching closely are charters," he said. "Xtra Airways came back with a gambling charter from Laughlin (Nevada) this week. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it was a 737. If it's near full, that's 150 passengers outside the airlines."
United Express, Horizon Air and Allegiant Air showed gains, while Delta Connection was off 3 percent.
"Delta just has a couple of flights a day," Case said. "With only the potential for 100 passengers a day, one or two per flight doesn't put us in jeopardy of losing the service."
Allegiant's gains came primarily in the Los Angeles market.
"Allegiant is showing us that both they and Horizon have done better in that market," Case said. "It's the American way when you compete a little bit. We would like to stimulate other markets in that way."
There are presently 20 flights in and 20 out of Medford during the winter, down from 24 takeoffs and landings a year ago.
"Our aircraft are getting larger," Case said. "So the number of seats are not down as much as the number of flights."
Case hinted that expanded air service to the Rogue Valley may be in the offing.
"I think the year '10 is going to be good to us," he said. "Sometime this year, we may see additional service, but I don't want to put a timeline on it."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.