City in Discussions to Return Passenger Air Service to Klamath County

Following the departure of PenAir in August 2017, City Officials and community leaders wasted no time in organizing and identifying a possible replacement scheduled passenger air carrier to service the Klamath Basin. On September 12th, a group from Klamath Falls traveled to and met with representatives from SkyWest Airlines, based in St. George, Utah. The meeting was initiated and facilitated by Mead-Hunt, an aviation consulting group with deep experience in the Pacific Northwest’s aviation sector.

Crater Lake Klamath Regional Airport - File Photo

Crater Lake Klamath Regional Airport - File Photo

At issue is whether any airline can be profitable in a smaller rural market during a period when there is a nationwide pilot shortage, smaller aircraft fleets have been reduced or eliminated, and rural market government subsidies have been reduced – all of which impact the ability of carriers to provide air service to rural markets nationwide. 

If a deal is struck with SkyWest, the airline would initiate service from Klamath Falls to San Francisco daily, using a 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet 200. In the past Klamath was serviced by 30-37 seat turbo- prop planes so a 50-seat jet would be a welcome improvement. Also discussed were flights to Portland, and potentially other markets if demand supported expansion. 

SkyWest indicated an internal route analysis is needed to evaluate Klamath’s proposal, and indicated it would complete its initial feasibility assessment in the coming weeks. 

The Klamath Team prepared and presented a detailed proposal that received compliments from the SkyWest team, which included the Managing Director of Market Development, Director of Revenue Management & Forecasting, and the Lead of Market Development. 

Community representatives at the presentation were cautiously optimistic about Klamath’s chances of landing a new airline, and each reiterated the importance and sense of urgency to resume passenger air service as soon as possible: 

John Barsalou, Director of the Crater Lake – Klamath Regional Airport said: “The support received from the County Commissioners, City Council, Sky Lakes, and other community partners allowed us to attend armed with necessary resources to address SkyWest’s start-up concerns. The encouragement was great!” 

Nathan Cherpeski, Klamath Falls’ City Manager said: “We feel our presentation was well received by the SkyWest Team. It was a positive meeting with great support from our Community Partners and we look forward to continuing discussions with SkyWest.” 

Jim Chadderdon, Executive Director – Discover Klamath Visitor & Convention Bureau said: “At $150M in annual inbound revenues to the Klamath Basin, tourism is a key economic driver. Having passenger air service is critical to our community’s ability to continue expanding our tourism footprint which allows the leisure traveler access to Klamath’s recreational and cultural attractions including Crater Lake, Lava Beds and so much more”. 

Greg O’Sullivan, Executive Director – Klamath County Economic Development Association said: “Air Service is vital to our business community, as well as to our community’s ability to attract new businesses, which is why we are encouraged by SkyWest’s interest in returning to Klamath”. 

Paul Stewart, CEO of Sky Lakes Medical Center said: “Passenger air service is vitally important to our local medical community. Our healthcare professionals, suppliers, and others who either provide medical services or support Klamath’s healthcare industry need convenient and timely access to the market. We are pleased to partner with others in the community to encourage SkyWest’s presence in our market”. 

In their meeting with SkyWest officials, local representatives reinforced the difficulties of traveling to Medford, particularly in winter, as well as the need for a passenger air carrier to service both inbound and outbound business and leisure travelers. 

Additional information will be forthcoming following the next meeting with SkyWest by approximately mid- October.

Press release from The City of Klamath Falls