County offers enticements for increased airport traffic

Hoping to attract more routes and services for local air travelers, Jackson County will waive landing fees for airlines that establish a new destination or a significantly different service at the Medford Rogue Valley International Airport.

Landing fees are typically $30,000 to $40,000 annually for a route, depending on the size of the plane and service. Fees for new routes would be waived for a year as a way to court airlines into providing more options for travelers, said Bern Case, airport director.

Until Tuesday, the airport was the only one in the region that didn't have an incentive program, which has come to be expected in the current struggling market, Case said at a work session Tuesday of Jackson County commissioners. Medford is part of the Federal Aviation Administration region that includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

"I'm not totally for incentives, but we can't be the only airport without that tool," Case said.

To guard against manipulation, airlines that adjust service seasonally or pull in and out of the market will not qualify for the incentive, the program stipulates.

Still, there is the potential for airlines to operate a new route or service for the year's duration of the incentive, County Administrator Danny Jordan said.

"This is potentially a double-edge sword," Jordan said.

The airport collects hundreds of thousands dollars annually in landing fees, Case said. An exact figure was not immediately available.

"We use the fees to maintain the services," he said. "You could say waiving the fees impacts operational funds to a minimal degree, but if the route stays, then the airline pays (in the subsequent year). We've thought it out, and to get someone in and started, it's a good incentive."

Horizon Air, United Express and Delta Connection (provided by Sky West) and Allegiant Air now offer about 60 flights daily connecting Medford with San Francisco, Portland, Eugene, Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

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