New Destinations Not Likely to Be Available at Redmond, Ore., Airport for Years

Looking for another new destination out of Redmond Airport? Don't hold your breath, Central Oregon officials said at a conference Wednesday.

Those involved in getting direct flights from Central Oregon to Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Denver said the process takes up to two years of preparation and a sizable financial commitment from the local community.

With officials currently not pursuing any services besides a daily flight to Denver, there probably won't be another new destination from Redmond Airport until after the terminal expansion is completed in late 2008, said Mike Boggs, manager of airport consulting group Mead & Hunt in Eugene.

Currently, United Express service to Denver operates only on weekends.

"Redmond has achieved an incredible amount of new services in the last few years," said Boggs, who helped local officials put together bids to bring new flights to Central Oregon. "The task now is to digest what they have."

Redmond added Delta Connection's daily service to Salt Lake City in March 2005, after more than a decade of only having direct flights to Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.

Since then, Horizon Air started daily flights to Los Angeles and Eugene in August, and the Denver service launched in June.

Delta agreed to start the Salt Lake City service after a number of financial guarantees from the Central Oregon community.

Those included a revenue guarantee of $500,000, set up through a federal grant, a pot from which Delta can recoup any monthly loss it incurs from the Redmond flight.

Redmond Airport won the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2003. The full amount was returned when Delta turned profits for each of its first 12 months operating the Salt Lake City flight.

The deal also included a $250,000 marketing budget, provided by parties that included the Central Oregon Visitors Association and local resorts, and a travel bank, where local businesses pledged more than $600,000 to buy Delta tickets.

The incentives were essential, said Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon.

"The airline invested $8 million (on the Salt Lake City flights) during the first year of service," said Lee, who presented Redmond's case to various airlines. "If it fails, it's not just airline execs saying, 'Oh well, we'll try another day.' People will lose their jobs. So they aren't going to take a chance with a small market just because it's there."

Lee and Boggs were speaking about securing new air services to a crowd of airport officials from cities throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

To highlight the difficulty of the task, Boggs placed a goldfish inside a water-filled blender (which was not activated) and compared small airports' position to the uncertain position of the fish.

"Airports around the country are finding it a challenge not only bringing in more services, but also to retain existing ones," he said.

"Without adequate air service, the local economy is threatened. It's a precarious position to be in."

Alana Audette, president and CEO of the Central Oregon Visitors Association, said it's important for local businesses to lay the groundwork for new air service first. After that, attracting one new destination can often lead to another.

"The Delta flight (to Salt Lake City) was pivotal for us in getting other airlines to take another look," Audette said. "(But) it's not enough to just want the service. Airlines want to see a business plan, a marketing plan, corporate commitment to the service and an ability to market the service."

Lee agreed, adding that the Horizon service to Los Angeles came about after data showed a large percentage of Salt Lake City-bound passengers from Redmond ended up in Southern California.

Horizon did not mandate a travel bank or a profit guarantee for the Los Angeles flights.

"Some folks were worried that Delta would take away from the incumbent airlines (at Redmond Airport, like Horizon and United)," he said. "But what we're seeing is that other incumbents are adding services to compete.

When you tell them that such-and-such is looking at this route, (incumbents) start to take notice."

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