SkyWest departure disrupts travel plans in Klamath Falls

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KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – The recent decision by SkyWest Airlines to discontinue service at Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport has travellers scrambling to reschedule flights.

Flights to and from Klamath Falls will end June 5, about a month before Kellee Stabler and her boyfriend had a ticket to visit family in the Midwest.

Instead of leaving from Klamath Falls, the couple now plans to drive 80 miles to Medford for a flight out of that airport to San Francisco. Stabler paid about $150 extra to reschedule the flights.

“So my ticket is now more expensive to go from Medford to San Francisco than from San Francisco to Chicago,” she told the Herald and News (http://is.gd/bMn75G). “It is going to be so difficult and costly to travel out of Klamath now. It is awful that we are so stuck here. It was so much nicer to have the choice to fly into and out of Klamath.”

SkyWest has provided air service to Klamath Falls since July 2008 and currently provides daily flights to and from Portland and San Francisco.

Small cities like Klamath Falls, population 21,000, have faced increasing challenges to maintain air service as a result of the recession and more stringent federal rules. The stricter rules govern crew scheduling and have made it difficult for airlines to maintain profitability in small markets.

SkyWest also is discontinuing flights between Modesto, Calif., and San Francisco.

John Longley, director of the Klamath Falls airport, said the timing of SkyWest’s departure was unexpected, and the city already has started searching for a replacement air carrier.

“The important thing is to look to the future,” Longley said. “You have to keep walking forward. . You just have to keep the faith.”

A stakeholder group plans to soon discuss how a $135,000 Oregon Department of Transportation marketing grant awarded to the airport — intended to boost the passenger count — could be affected by SkyWest’s departure. The group includes airport and travel officials, as well as Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Charles Massie.

“The thing that we don’t know from this point forward is: How many companies will look at Klamath Falls and decide not to come here because we don’t have commercial air service?” Massie said.

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Information from: Herald and News, http://www.heraldandnews.com

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