Airport growth by the numbers

Redmond Airport

2007: 356,345 scheduled available seats

2017: 479,828 scheduled available seats, a 35-percent increase.

2018 (predicted): 572,604 available seats, a 19-percent increase.

Eugene Airport

2007: 515,390 scheduled available seats

2017: 687,632 scheduled available seats, a 33-percent increase.

2018 (predicted): 751,993 available seats, a 9-percent increase.

Source: Diio Mi/Mead & Hunt

More seats on more flights is making Redmond Airport one of the fastest growing airports in Oregon, airport officials say.

And more demand from passengers is good for Redmond’s no-frills, easy-to-drive-to airport. The airport flies passengers direct to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Denver.

On Monday, United will start its newest additional flight — Redmond to Los Angeles. Travelers to Southern California will then have two daily flight options on American Airlines and United. In June, United will begin a third flight to Denver and an additional flight on Saturday to San Francisco for the summer.

Having additional flights, even though most people come to Central Oregon by car, is important to the region because it draws in new businesses and visitors to the area that is remotely situated — far off Interstate 5 and three hours from a major travel hub.

“An airport is quite critical especially for an economy that is expanding,” said Trina Froehlich, a Mead & Hunt air service consultant in Eugene. “Air service allows businesses to reach out to the rest of the world. In Central Oregon it plays a critical role in the development of an economy.”

The growth will continue, experts say, as long as flights remain full and carriers continue to add and maintain the routes. In a 10-year period — from 2007 to 2017 — the number of daily flights at Redmond during summer months rose from 12 to 25, said Zachary Bass, Redmond Airport director. During the winter months of January and February the number of daily flights can shrink to about 20 flights a day, Bass said.

This year the airport predicts there will be nearly 800,000 travelers coming through the airport, which would be an all-time high.

And airlines are responding with more service. In 2017, there were 479,828 scheduled available seats, a 35-percent increase over 2016.

This year, 572,604 scheduled available seats are predicted, a 19-percent increase.

“More flights mean more options and more choices,” said Eric Sande, chairman of the Redmond Airport Committee, which brings community concerns to the airport administrators. “More flights makes getting here easier.”

In airline parlance, the load factor shows how full the planes are, and at Redmond Airport that hovers around 80 percent, even when additional flights on larger planes are added, Bass said.

“Our load factor is still strong, which indicates the airlines are still seeing a demand,” Bass said.

Every week there is at least one person traveling for business for Kollective Technology, a software company that opened an office three years ago in Bend, said Dan Vetras, Kollective Technology CEO. On Friday he flew up and back to Seattle. On Monday he’ll be in San Francisco, and by Saturday he’ll be in Singapore.

“Every week someone is on the road,” Vetras said. “The whole airport experience is phenomenal here. The people who work there are great.”

But there is one nit Vetras would like to pick: When he’s traveling, there are often times when he’s cooling his jets in an airport lounge waiting for a connecting flight.

“I underestimated the role of connecting when getting to other places,” Vetras said. “There are times when I could be stuck at (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) for five hours.

“Everything is so close here in terms of recreation,” Vetras said. “When you’re on the road 50 percent of the time, you want your off time to be in a nice place. When you arrive here and get off the plane on the tarmac, you look around and see those mountains and you realize it’s all worth it.”

At Redmond Airport, Kaari Vaughn waited for her luggage to arrive Tuesday afternoon. She and her family had just arrived from Seattle after spending time in Florida with family on spring break.

There have been times when the family bypassed Redmond and flew out of Portland, but had to make the three-hour drive, book a hotel room and find a place to park the car.

“It’s so convenient here,” said Vaughn, who lives in Bend. “If we have the time, we’ll make the drive to Portland (International Airport), and we have done it. It’s not something we want to do especially in winter.

Getting the carriers

Every year a cadre of Central Oregon officials goes to airline company headquarters across the country to pitch Redmond as a destination they should maintain routes to and from, Bass said. And then once a year they attend a JumpStart Airports Council International-North America conference where airports elevator-­pitch their communities. They try to grab airlines’ attention with market data such as GDP, employment, education, tourism and airport data. It’s kind of like speed dating all done in a giant conference room, he said.

“Air service is hugely critical to us, and it’s part of our marketing strategy for Central Oregon,” said Alana Hughson, CEO of Central Oregon Visitors Association, a destination marketing agency, and a member of the Central Oregon Air Service Team. “With every new market, we look to expand our marketing effort to support the flights.”

Once an airport has a carrier’s attention, additional meetings are held, and maybe two years down the road a new route might be added.

“It’s an ongoing relationship and conversation with the airline about Central Oregon and the capacity it can hold,” Bass said. “That takes multiple years to add new service.”

Some carriers will be offered incentives through a U.S. Department of Transportation grant called Small Community Air Services Development Program. For new destinations, the airport could offer incentives such as two years of landing-fee waivers or other forms of financial assistance to guarantee that the new route will produce revenue, Bass said.

When the new route to Phoenix was added in 2016, Redmond Airport granted incentives to American Airlines through a federal grant and matching local revenue-­guarantee funds, Bass said. These funds were used to guarantee that the airline wouldn’t lose money if the route didn’t produce enough revenue, he said. American never tapped into the incentive money because the route met these projections.

“Airlines look to see if there are enough passengers to establish a new route,” Froehlich said. “The Redmond market is doing really well.”

One route that the airport has pitched repeatedly is a direct flight to Chicago, Bass said. If an airline ever decided to establish a flight to Chicago from Redmond, that would make travel so much easier, said Dan Hobin, G5 co-founder and CEO.

“We’d like to see more competition and lower prices,” Hobin said. “I have gotten used to smaller airports like Redmond. The planes load faster, the take-off is faster, and there’s no lines.”

About three-fourths of the people who use Redmond Airport come from the area, and about 25 percent of the Central Oregon residents who fly use Portland’s airport, Bass said. With more flights and larger planes, the hope is to encourage more passengers to fly from Redmond, he said.

Opening new routes would create more demand, Bass said. Those markets that Redmond’s Central Oregon Air Service Team of volunteer business leaders hopes to see in the future are San Diego, Las Vegas, Orange County, California, Dallas and Chicago — destinations that currently don’t have direct service, he said. But those decisions are up to the airlines.

“We’re in a really good place,” said Jon Stark, Economic Development Central for Oregon Redmond area manager. “Redmond has an aggressive approach to going to airlines to expand service.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

19973969