Airlines cautious about routing

Why doesn't Horizon Air (Alaska Air Lines) offer direct flights to Sacramento?

Many folks, including my wife and I, will drive to Sacramento International Airport to board international cross-country flights. Including car storage and gas expense, there is still a big savings — including flying to San Francisco or Portland — to make connections.

— Murray D., Medford

Airlines, including those you mention in the Alaska Air Group, play it coy when discussing future routes.

Suffice to say, you are not alone, Murray. Air travelers broach the Sacramento question nearly as much as shoppers ask about Nordstrom coming to Medford.

At this point, Horizon flights skip over the Central Valley all the way to Los Angeles, but recent events may be setting the stage for something new. Horizon said in April it is creating a new base for some of its flight crew and cabin staff. That might be considered a first step toward your dream.

But airlines are all about bottom-line performance.

"What they do is look at routing they can make a profit on," said Brian Mein of Caveman Travel in Grants Pass. "Really it's a matter of having enough passenger interest on routes and the best thing people can do is to let the airlines know what they want. Medford to Sacramento just is not there yet."

Even though there is demand for certain cities, airlines want to know they can regularly fill a plane before initiating service.

"They've got to be convinced there is profit in going to a city," Mein said. "There is demand for Horizon to fly to Las Vegas, but not enough to fill a plane every day."

Then there is the spoke-and-hub thinking. Airlines fly from smaller cities to hub cities. Horizon feeds passengers to Alaska in Portland and Seattle. If, as you suggest, Sacramento is already a jumping-off point for you, what would keep flyers from taking Horizon to Sacramento and then jumping on a discounter such as Southwest?

"They don't want people flying to Sacramento and then taking a Southwest flight," Mein said. "And remember, if you were flying from Medford to Sacramento and going to Southwest, you would have to get your baggage and go through security again. If that's what people are thinking, that's probably not a good way to go."

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