Astoria-Portland flights see low sales

ASTORIA — After nine months, ticket sales of flights between Astoria and Portland run by a subsidized airline have been sluggish, with some flights being canceled because of low passenger numbers even after an aggressive marketing campaign.

The Daily Astorian reports that returns on ticket sales by SeaPort Airlines, which serves three daily round-trip flights from Astoria to Portland, is being closely watched by officials in Newport and Port of Astoria. It also said the flights in nine-seat planes carry only two people on average.

Flights have been canceled due to lack of passengers.

Both the city and the port jointly manage a $4.5 million state grant that subsidizes the airline. The flights were launched nine months ago to bring more people to the two spots.

It's working in Newport, where two daily roundtrip flights are attracting more passengers than Astoria's three flights.

Newport officials have begun questioning whether Astoria should cancel the third flight from Portland to save grant money or transfer that flight to Newport.

"We're looking for ways to make the service more robust in all its aspects, including Astoria," said Newport Mayor Bill Bain. "No one wants to kill service that has a good chance of success."

Newport has also applied to obtain grants that only service flights to Newport.

SeaPort Chief Financial Officer Jim Day said his company will not agree with canceling the third flight. The company recently reshuffled the schedule in an attempt to attract more passengers.

Day said Astoria's ticket sales are meeting expectations.

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