Yearly traffic dips at Medford airport

After a high-flying first six months, commercial travel at the Medford airport has tailed off.

Instead of pushing for a record passenger count during the holidays, the Jackson County-owned airport will have to content itself with holding steady after travel totals declined year-over-year for the fourth straight month in October.

Earlier this year, airport Director Bern Case harbored thoughts of challenging 2007's record passenger count of 647,471. Now it looks like this year won't even surpass the 2012 total of 642,569, which is No. 2 on the all-time list.

In October, 54,046 flyers passed through the gates, down 2.3 percent from a year earlier. The 10-month total of 536,308 is half a percent behind 2012.

"We aren't going to be able to make that much up in two months," Case conceded. "Still, it's been a pretty good year, and I think we will hit 639,000. It's kind of what it is; earlier in the year I had high hopes."

Even though the total was the fourth-best October on record, hopes of bettering 2012 faded away when the federal government shut down and Allegiant Air dropped a flight while its MD-80s underwent inspection early in the month.

"All of those things add up," Case said. "The economy is still stagnant and people are a little reluctant to go somewhere."

While Eugene's airport has seen a slight increase in its passenger count, Medford is holding its own compared to smaller community operations in Klamath Falls, Redmond and Redding, Calif., Case said.

"I can't complain about being down a half-percent in today's economy," he said. "That's not very many people."

Alaska Air Group unit Horizon Air was the lone carrier to see its numbers increase over 2012. Horizon hauled 27,422 passengers in and out of the Rogue Valley, up 7.9 percent.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, which has reduced its routes from a year ago, saw a 30.7 percent decline to 3,420 passengers. United Express saw 8.6 percent fewer flyers, dropping to 15,597, and Delta Connection slumped 5.5 percent to 5,902 travelers.

The airport offers 17 daily departures from Medford, down one from a year ago.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at Edge.

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