By Greg Stiles
Passenger travel at the Medford airport continued in rarefied heights during September. After posting its two best months ever during July and August, the passenger count continued humming along last month, setting a monthly record with 56,077 travelers passing through the gates.
September is a traditional fall-off month when school starts, airlines cut back schedules and travelers rest up for the holidays.
CASE NAMED OREGON’S AIRPORT MANAGER OF YEAR
Bern Case, director of the Medford airport, has been named Airport Manager of the Year by the Oregon Association of Airport Managers. Since arriving in January 1994 from Lubbock, Texas, Case has overseen expansion of operations, a new terminal and the doubling of passenger activity.
Also, Kim Stearns, the airport’s public information officer, has been named secretary of the OAAM for the coming year.
However, the county-owned airport saw a 4.4 percent gain in passenger activity over the corresponding 2011 period, making it the best September ever for passenger travel in Medford and the second-best month outside the June through August peak time. Only May 2007’s 56,398 figure exceeded the non-summer months and that year remains the best-ever for the airport.
“I just think it’s a sign the economy in the valley is coming back a bit,” Airport Director Bern Case said, acknowledging rising auto fuel prices may have helped. “Airline ticket prices lag behind a little bit and we may eventually suffer from that, but so far it’s been good.”
The September showing follows the two best months in the airport’s history, boosting the passenger count to 483,914 through nine months, 2.7 percent ahead of 2011’s pace.
“It’s not the best three months ever, but July through September was our best quarter ever,” Case said.
The shoulder-season performance was accomplished with just 18 daily departures and arrivals. Alaska Air Group unit Horizon Air saw a 9 percent uptick in September, while Delta Connection was up 3.3 percent. United Express was virtually unchanged, while Allegiant dropped 2.6 percent.
“I don’t think we were in trouble on having enough seats, but we were pushing up against capacity,” Case said. “We’re certainly moving in the right direction to push for bigger aircraft or more flights. I think Horizon is watching things pretty close.”
While Case is confident 2012 will finish among the top three years for passenger activity, he said the 2007 record of 647,471 remains safe.
“I don’t think we are going to challenge that,” he said. “But we’ll end up around 630,000.”