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Competition needed to lower fares to Bay Area

You regularly report healthy growth in passenger traffic at the Medford airport. But one thing never changes: Why is it so hard to get affordable, and reasonably scheduled flights to the Bay Area?

— Michael S., Medford

We feel your pain, Michael.

Historically, flying between Medford and San Francisco International is a financial Taser experience.

It’s well-documented that a flight from the Medford airport to San Francisco International has cost $500-plus more often than not in recent years.

However, if you are willing to travel light, United Air Lines has a $245 round-trip, nonstop option this summer.

Of course, you can probably fly to any number of destinations on the Friendly Skies and see your price per mile take a deep dive.

In the air travel industry’s deregulated era, multiple airlines challenged United with low fares, along the lines of $79 one-way. United immediately matched or beat the fares offered by other carriers, and in a matter of weeks the deep pockets won out.

Everyone from airport directors to travel agents and industry consultants will tell you competition is the surest fix. If Alaska Air Group decided to start a couple of reasonably priced daily flights to the Bay Area, you can rest assured United would respond accordingly. Seattle-based Alaska, however, is more concerned with defending its home turf against Delta at the moment than starting a fare war it can’t win.

We can all hope that maybe, just maybe, American Air Lines or Delta might open a Bay Area route.

All that said, rising fuel costs are applying upward pressure on airlines, so it’s possible fares will go up before they go down.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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