Medford airport passenger count rises

The Medford airport snapped a 15-month streak of declining passenger activity last month as it posted its second-best June and fourth-best month ever.

A total of 60,796 passengers passed through the gates in June, up nearly 1 percent from the 60,267 figure in June 2008. It was the best month in the airport's books since August 2007, when 65,427 passengers flew commercially in and out of the Rogue Valley.

"Those are good numbers," said Airport Director Bern Case. "It's barely up, but it's up."

Not since March 2008 has the airport seen a year-over-year increase after more than a decade of sustained growth. Allegiant Air, the newest of the four carriers serving Southern Oregon, moved solidly into the No. 3 position with an increase of more than 230 percent.

Its 8,551 passengers easily surpassed Delta Connection. Horizon Air, United Express and Delta Connection all saw modest gains over last June.

"Allegiant is helping everyone," Case said. "We're up for June and I think July is looking good. I haven't been talking to agents so much as looking at our parking lot and it's busy."

Although the airport still trails 2008 figures by 10.1 percent, it is on course to finish in the same range as 2005 and 2006 — years when there were just under 600,000 passengers.

Case also is tracking how his airport is stacking up against Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field.

In May, Case said, Eugene held a slight 25,574 to 25,492 edge in passenger departures — a difference of fewer than three passengers per day.

"They usually run 10 to 15 percent ahead of us," Case said. "We're feeling good about the way the community is supporting us."

Another good sign for the airport, he said, is activity at the new restaurant that opened last spring.

"The Red Baron (which closed in February 2006) had an all-time high (monthly) gross of $54,000," Case said.

"In its first full month, Sky House Bar & Grill grossed $89,000."

He said the ability to serve passengers that have cleared the security checkpoint was a major factor.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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