Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rogue Valley International - Medford Airport (KMFR) sees third record-breaking year

MEDFORD — The Medford airport capped its third-straight record year with its second-best December ever, finishing 2016 with 822,289 travelers passing through its gates.

“We can’t expect every year to be up like this past year was,” airport Director Bern Case said. “But if we are up a percent or two each year and grow with economy, I will be pleased with that.”

The figures Case reported this week were daydreaming fantasies when he became airport director in 1994.

“I would’ve been thrilled to think about it,” Case said. “The county population was 180,000, and we doubled that after the first year. Now the county has 220,000 people, and we’re growing at a better rate than the population.”

The passenger total that year was 307,621, with no monthly records. But 1995 saw five monthly records fall and 70,000 more passengers than the year before. The 372,246 figure in 1995 snapped the 1987 record by more than 18,000 passengers and began a streak of six record years. In 2000, the airport fell just shy of the half-million mark, and 2001 looked to be the year that plateau would be attained.

Then came the terrorist attacks of 2001. It took three years to get back on track, but beginning in December 2003, the airport began a string of 27 straight record months. A shorter streak pushed the annual record to 647,471 passengers in 2007. But the Great Recession set in, and record months were a rarity until a four-month surge at the end of 2014 produced a final tally of 664,423 passengers.

An improbable 14.1 percent jump in 2015 followed, boosting the all-time record to 757,571. Last year began strong and stayed that way.

Passenger declines

Although December saw the end of a 27-month string of passenger records, Case admits he’d take those kind of numbers any winter.

The 64,175 December flyers were 190 short of the 64,365 total in 2015.

“We were only off by six passengers a day, and we had a few cancellations through the holidays that had a little bit of effect,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily the weather here, but flow control out of San Francisco.”

The reopening of commercial flights out of Klamath Falls was a contributing factor, and after two years of booking multiple charters flights out of Medford during its run to the NAIA football finals, Southern Oregon University’s football team didn’t make the playoffs in 2016.

“A couple more charters for football teams or one more gambling junket would’ve put us over,” Case said. “Either way, it was still a great December.”

Entering 2017, the airport has 17 daily departures, one less than a year ago, but 4 percent more seats are available because of larger planes. In June, American Eagle will become the fifth commercial carrier in the market when it begins service to Phoenix Sky Harbor airport and Los Angeles International Airport.


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