By PAT BUSHEY
Air service to Klamath Falls is a vital part of the Klamath County economic future. An area as isolated as Klamath Falls needs to be able to move people and goods in and out more quickly than by road.
A news package last week laid out the finances for the airport, and future hopes to establish more stable funding, including the possibility of a port district to provide a tax base.
The airport’s long-term future is a chronic matter of concern, just as the future is for most small airports. It takes a subsidy from the city of Klamath Falls to keep the airport operating. The airport’s benefits, though, go well beyond the Klamath Falls city limits to the entire county and farther.
Such economic pillars as Oregon Institute of Technology, Sky Lakes Medical Center and Jeld-Wen generate traffic and rely on it.
Like many airports its size, Klamath Falls has had a number of different carriers over the years in its search for someone willing to serve the market and connect it to Portland and San Francisco. Currently it is linked by United Express to both cities.
It has to compete with Medford, 70 miles to the west, which some people from Klamath Falls would rather fly from to get better fares or to avoid traveling on United, which has been ranked the worst major air carrier in the United States, according to a study of such things as consumer complaints, on-time departures and lost luggage.
It’s also the only airline willing to serve Klamath Falls, which makes it valuable and a plus for the area in spite of its shortcomings.
The airport has a connection and shared benefit with Kingsley Field, and its Air National Guard unit, which has a huge economic impact on the Klamath Basin.
The airport’s value isn’t always visible. If you don’t fly, or don’t rely on it, you don’t see it. But it’s a piece of the local economic tapestry that makes up the Klamath Basin and helps attract people and jobs. It’s a plus for the local area that needs to be preserved.