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Horizon Air halting flights to two Oregon cities

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on June 30, 2008 at 8:13 am |
June 30, 2008 8:13 am

Northwest regional airline Horizon Air will eliminate all flights to North Bend-Coos Bay and Klamath Falls in Oregon beginning Oct. 11 in a move to trim unprofitable flying from its schedule.


“Despite our best efforts to adjust flight schedules and fares in order to make these routes financially viable, consistent profitability has proved to be elusive,” said Dan Russo, Horizon’s vice president of marketing and communications. “The astronomically high fuel prices have only made the situation worse, and so we find ourselves with no choice but to reduce our losses by taking this action.”


The end of Horizon Air service won’t leave the two airports without a carrier. SkyWest, flying as United Express, serves both airports with daily flights to San Francisco.


The diminishment of air service, however, is expected to be particularly difficult for the two relatively isolated cities that depend on tourism for much of their business activity. North Bend is the gateway to the southwest Oregon cost and to the internationally famed Bandon Dunes link-style golf courses at Bandon. Klamath Falls is the close to Crater Lake National Park.


The airline will also trim its Seattle-Portland schedule from the present 31 flights daily to 24 by Oct. 26 as it retires its 37-seat Bombardier Q200 turboprop aircraft from its schedule earlier than anticipated, the airline announced today.


The dozen Q200s will be retired by Oct. 28 instead of by April 2009, the original target for their retirement, the airline said.


The airline will also begin removing CRJ-700 jets from its fleet in September as it moves to a fleet of all 74-passenger Bombardier Q400 turboprops.


The airline is moving to the Q400, of which it now has 34 because the aircraft is the most fuel efficient in its fleet. Standardizing on a single type of plane will also help Horizon trim maintenance and staffing costs give it more scheduling flexibility.


Horizon is attempting to cut its fuel consumption and eliminate unprofitable routes as it tries to cope with ever-higher fuel costs. For the airline industry as a whole, fuel costs have risen more than 75 percent this year.


SeaTac-based Horizon announced numerous other schedule changes in a press release:


Medford-Portland: The current five daily flights (two Q400s and three Q200s) will be reduced to four (two Q400s and two Q200s) from Aug. 25 through Sept. 6 and then become two Q400s and two CRJ-700s starting Sept. 7, increasing seats by 11 percent compared to today.


Yakima-Seattle: The current four daily flights (one Q200 and three Q400s) will be served entirely with Q400s starting Sept. 7, increasing seats by 15 percent.


Eugene-Portland: The current three daily flights (all Q200s) will become two Q200s and one Q400 starting July 7, one Q200 and two Q400s starting Sept. 7, and three Q400s starting Oct 26, more than doubling the number of seats compared to today.


Redmond/Bend-Portland: The current five daily flights (four Q200s and one Q400) will be reduced to four (three Q200s and one Q400) on Aug. 25, as previously announced. Starting Oct. 12, all four flights will be served with Q400s, increasing seats by 36 percent compared to today.


Wenatchee-Seattle: The current four daily flights (all Q200s) will be served by three Q400s and one Q200 Aug. 25, as previously announced. Starting Oct. 26, all four flights will be served with Q400s, more than doubling the number of seats compared to today.


Walla Walla-Seattle: The current three daily flights (all Q200s) will be served by three Q400s starting Oct. 28. Two of the three westbound departures will originate in Pendleton, stop in Walla Walla, and then proceed nonstop to Seattle. Eastbound, two of the flights will operate nonstop to Walla Walla, while a third will make an intermediate stop in Pendleton.


Pendleton-Seattle (new route): The current three daily flights to Portland (all Q200s, two of which make an intermediate stop in Pasco) will become two daily Q400 flights to Seattle starting Oct. 28. Both westbound flights and one of the two eastbound flights will make an intermediate stop in Walla Walla. The new service will provide East Oregonians with new national and international connecting flight opportunities through Seattle. Connections to Horizon’s Seattle-Portland Shuttle will be no more than one hour away. This change is pending government approval.


Pendleton-Walla Walla (new route): Two daily Q400 flights will operate between the two cities starting Oct. 28, each originating and terminating in Seattle.


Routes where flights are being reduced or eliminated (effective dates as noted)


Portland-Sacramento: Five daily CRJ-700 flights will be reduced to four starting Sept. 7.


Portland-Burbank: Four daily CRJ-700 flights will be reduced to three starting Sept. 7.


Portland-Ontario: Four daily CRJ-700 flights will be reduced to three starting Sept. 7.


Portland-San Jose: Three daily CRJ-700 flights will be reduced to two starting Oct. 26. Alaska Airlines will continue to offer an additional three daily flights.


Pendleton-Portland: The current three daily Q200 flights to Portland will be replaced with two daily Q400 flights to Seattle starting Oct. 28 (see above). This change is pending government approval.


Pendleton-Pasco: The current two daily Q200 flights to Pasco are being replaced with two daily Q400 flights to Walla Walla starting Oct. 28 (see above). This change is pending government approval.


Pasco-Portland: Flights from Pasco are currently combined with Pendleton on one routing to Portland. As a result of the rerouting of Pendleton flights to Seattle starting Oct. 28, direct service between Pasco and Portland will be discontinued. Horizon will continue to serve Pasco with six Q400 flights to Seattle, providing a one-hour (or shorter) connection to Horizon’s Seattle-Portland Shuttle.


Portland-Seattle: The 26 Horizon Shuttle flights each way (taking effect Aug. 25 and five flights less than today) will be trimmed by two additional flights starting Oct. 26, and the remaining 24 Shuttle flights each way will be operated with Q400s or CRJ-700s. Shuttle flights will operate hourly and also on the half-hour during busier commute periods of the day.


Horizon seeks to rebid Pendleton Essential Air Service contract


Horizon currently serves Pendleton under a contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation Essential Air Service program, which provides a subsidy for two of the three 37-seat Q200 flights the airline operates to Portland.


As reported above, Horizon’s Q200s will be phased out of its fleet by Oct. 28 and replaced with Q400s. Since the Q400 (which seats more than twice as many passengers as the Q200) has higher operating costs, and fuel costs continue to rise, Horizon has initiated a process with the DOT to be given the opportunity to rebid the current Pendleton EAS contract.


Horizon’s bid proposes providing two daily Q400 flights from Pendleton to Seattle (instead of the current three Q200 flights to Portland) beginning Oct. 28, thus still meeting the current EAS requirements of two daily Pendleton flights to either city.

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