Horizon cuts some flights to Medford

Horizon Airlines will reduce service to Medford as part of a series of schedule and route changes announced Tuesday afternoon.

The Seattle-based regional carrier said it will drop one of its 37-passenger Q200 flights between Portland and the Rogue Valley beginning Aug. 25. That will leave Horizon with two Q200 and two 74-passenger Q400 flights to Portland daily.

"With fuel prices hitting record highs," said Dan Russo, Horizon's director of marketing and communications, "it's never been more important to ensure every single Horizon flight is as productive as possible."

The Medford-Portland route was one of eight to see fewer flights. Horizon is dropping routes between Butte and Billings, Mont., to Seattle and Portland, respectively, and reducing the number of daily flights from 31 to 26 between Portland and Seattle.

Horizon is phasing out its Q200s and its 70-seat CRJ-700 jets in favor of Q400s, which burn 30 percent less fuel and produce 30 percent less carbon dioxide than a comparable jet.

As the Q200s are phased out, additional flight reductions could follow, Horizon officials said.

Horizon saw a 5.75 percent drop in passengers in April, handling 18,360 revenue passengers and 1,180 non-revenue passengers in and out of Medford.

With Mesa Air Group, which operates US Airways Express, saying it could file for bankruptcy court protection if its contract with Delta Airlines is canceled, it could mean fewer seats for local air travelers.

"It's kind of a puzzle right now and it's going to be interesting to see as things fall into place," said Pam Burgess of Uniglobe/Burgess Travel in Medford. "Depending on what Mesa does — if it were to fold, I think Horizon will beef back up. This area is growing and I think Horizon might be approached down the line to pick up some of the contracts."

Burgess said local service fliers still have more choices for outbound flights with five airlines presently serving the valley.

"Getting people in and out of the valley is still easier than it used to be in the old days, but it doesn't surprise me to see airlines cutting back. If it's only one flight, with the price of fuel, I'd be happy," Burgess said.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

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