Sunday, July 24, 2016

PenAir touts economic pluses for city

From left: Klamath-Crater Lake Regional Airport manager John Barsalou, Missy Roberts, vice president of sales and marketing for PenAir, Janie Peña Hansen, air service development manager for Portland International Airport, and Mike Walsh, PenAir regional sales manager, speak with the Herald and News on Friday.

Missy Roberts, vice president of sales and marketing for PenAir, speaks with the Herald and News on Friday.

Mike Walsh, regional sales manager for PenAir, speaks with the Herald and News on Friday.

Janie Peña Hansen, air service development manager for Portland International Airport, speaks with the Herald and News about PenAir flights between Klamath Falls and Portland on Friday.

Klamath-Crater Lake Regional Airport manager John Barsalou speaks with the Herald and News about PenAir's plans for air service on Friday.

PenAir will start commercial air service in Klamath Falls Oct. 5, but preparations — and ticket sales — are going on now.

The Alaska-based commuter airline received a rousing welcome Thursday at the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport. About 300 attended the meet and greet event and 10 people booked flights that day.

Airport Manager John Barsalou is encouraging travelers to book early to take advantage of ticket discounts.

“Don’t wait until Oct. 5 to buy your tickets. That will be too late,” Barsalou said Friday at the Herald and News offices. He noted that for the airline to be successful the 30-seater turboprop planes needs to have a 50 to 70 percent load factor.

The airline evaluates its boardings daily from each of the 22 cities is serves across the Northwest and Alaska, said Missy Roberts, PenAir vice president for sales and marketing.

“We look at boardings daily and our advance bookings; where they are taking place and where we need to get more individuals on the aircraft,” Roberts said. “In the next few weeks, there will be a sales promotional push for Klamath.”

“The key is that we want this market to succeed,” Roberts said. “A lot of people have put a lot of effort into it. We plan to work with corporations and schools to set up corporate fares to stimulate traffic, too.” Having Oregon Tech, Jeld-Wen and a new satellite campus of Oregon Health and Science University here helps, she noted.

“We need the community to get behind us and the airport so that we can get every plane, every seat filled,” Roberts said.

The airport has a $75,000 grant to help with promotion for PenAir, too, Barsalou said.

Klamath Falls has been without commercial air service since June 2014 when SkyWest pulled out. The city rallied to recruit PenAir, which is now serving five Southern Oregon and Northern California cities with 30-seater Saab 340 turboprop aircraft.

Klamath Falls was the last on the list. The initial starting date was held up after Transportation Security Administration officials balked at returning passenger screening services to the airport. Congressional leaders from Oregon and other states quickly put together a bill forcing TSA to start up operations at similar, smaller airports.

Employed locally

TSA will employ two full-time security people and four to six part-time at Klamath. PenAir will also have eight to 10 workers on site, too.

“And we’re hiring for those spots,” said Mike Walsh, regional sales manager. One can visit to view job openings.

Also, a crew of three – pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant, will overnight in the city each day.

“So, you’ll have a three-person crew staying in hotels every night,” Roberts said.

PenAir’s flight schedule will consist of two daily flights during the week — one that leaves at 6:40 a.m. and one leaves at 2:50 p.m. The 6:40 a.m. flight arrives in the Rose City at 8 a.m. and the 2:50 p.m. flight arrives at 4:10 p.m. Flights return to Klamath Falls at 2:20 and 6:20 p.m. One flight will be available at 11 a.m. on Saturday and one flight on Sunday at 5 p.m.

Cost of the flights range from $82 to $158 each way depending on how far in advance the flights are booked. The airline is running a 15 percent discount for new bookings if one books at before Dec. 31. The discount is for the Oct. 5 through Feb. 28, 2017.

“It’s important to remember that the fares are going to be competitive with Medford and other cities,” Barsalou said. “Folks need to take into account not just the ticket price, when determining the value of the plane ticket, but other costs. If one has to drive to Medford, pay to park a car and drive through tough winter conditions, paying $20 more for a ticket out of Klamath looks pretty good.” Further, the Klamath Airport offers free parking.

Connecting flights

The airline will connect passengers with Alaska, Delta and United in Portland. Bags are checked through to adjoining flights. It will soon have a contract with American Airlines as well.

The cabin of the plane is roomy enough to stand up in. There will be overhead bins for carry ons, storage beneath the seats, refreshment service and a lavatory. Flights last about one hour, 20 minutes. Bag weight limits are 50 pounds and each passenger is encouraged to bring only two bags. Checked bags cost $25 per bag.

The airport has made improvements to its facilities to house PenAir staff; is working on upgrading a taxiway and hopes to obtain a grant in the next month for $2.8 million to build a maintenance hangar.

“Our goal is to have PenAir to lease a portion of the hangar for its maintenance,” Barsalou said.

It’s too early for the airline to talk about expanding its routes, but Roberts said it has opened five routes out of Denver.

“We’ve actually ramped up pretty quickly. Between now and November we have seven new routes,” Roberts said.


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