Rogue Valley travelers have new options for flights to Phoenix and Los Angeles.
American Airlines partner American Eagle will begin daily flights to Sky Harbor International and Los Angeles International airports beginning June 2.
American Eagle service will be provided by SkyWest Airlines, which also provides flight crews, baggage handling and other staffing for United Express and Delta Connection at the Medford airport.
The 70-passenger Canadian Regional Jets, equipped with a first-class section, will start the day in Los Angeles, stop in Medford, continue to Phoenix and then reverse the route.
The announcement ended a lengthy pursuit of restored service to Sky Harbor that ended when US Airways pulled out of Medford in 2008 after it acquired American West Airlines.
"It's been a long and complicated process," said airport Director Bern Case. "The economy was struggling when US Airways pulled out. We've been working on getting the route back ever since. There wasn't a year that went by that we didn't have serious talks."
Changing ownership, thanks to consolidation, didn't help.
Case said he hopes Allegiant will continue to offer its seasonal service between Mesa, southeast of Phoenix, and Medford.
"I think it's a big enough market that both can survive," he said.
He also thinks having three options to Los Angeles — Alaska, American Eagle and Allegiant — will benefit the market.
"American figured out the Los Angeles route on its own with no incentive or encouragement from us to compete there," Case said. "Competition is good for everyone. We didn't provide more than regular incentives. There were no guarantees or ticket banking. We just have a good solid market with good business plans."
The Medford routes are part of an expansion of service to Phoenix that American began last year. American Eagle will begin Eugene service in June, following new connections next month to Phoenix from Sonoma County north of San Francisco, and Laughlin/Bullhead airport south of Las Vegas.
American Airlines western region spokesperson Polly Tracey said the new routes follow expansion to Lubbock and Midland, Texas, along with Santa Fe and Roswell, N.M., in 2016.
"There was a real pattern forming across 2016 for us introducing smaller spokes into our Phoenix hub, and it's continuing into 2017," Tracey said. "We've been restricted in our routes to Los Angeles, but we have space in Phoenix."
Departure for Sky Harbor is 12:05 p.m., arriving at 2:25 p.m. Flights from Phoenix are listed as a 1:35 p.m. departure, arriving in Medford at 4:10 p.m.
Flights leave Los Angeles International at 9:40 a.m., arriving in the Rogue Valley at 11:25 a.m. Departures for Los Angeles are at 5 p.m., arriving at 6:45 p.m.
"Two added flights is a nice way to start the year," said Case, who is still awaiting the final December 2016 passenger totals.
Case said airport and airline representatives will meet this week to discuss ticket counter space.
"Right now it sounds like they want their own space," he said. "We're eager to meet with them."
The last time the airport added a new destination was Allegiant's short-lived service to Oakland in 2012.
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.