The final passenger count for 2012 at the Medford airport topped 2011 by nearly 4 percent, easily making it the second-best year on record.
A total of 642,569 passengers passed through the gates in 2012, including 51,929 last month, making it the third-best December.
"Our record year, 2007, came before the economic downturn and we were within 5,000 of the all-time record," Airport Director Bern Case said.
While both economic activity and services aligned to produce a surge at the gates in 2007, there weren't a lot of similarities to last year, Case said.
"We set records every month that year," Case said of 2007. "We had three record months this past year and the others remained solid. In spite of the economy, we had a great year. I wouldn't say we're up for good, but we're definitely stable again."
Alaska Air Group unit Horizon Air remains the most active carrier in the Rogue Valley. Last month, Horizon had 24,632 passengers, an 11.7 percent gain from December 2011. After re-locating some of its pilots and flight crews to Medford at the end of the summer, Horizon figures to be the chief provider for some time.
Delta Connection made the biggest inroads in December, seeing a 13.3 percent pickup.
"We used to see Delta flying mostly 50-passenger jets to Salt Lake City; now we're seeing 70-passenger jets," Case said.
United Express was up 9.3 percent for the month and was also up for the year. Allegiant, which cut back some flights early in the year, was down 1.5 percent, Case said.
While the airport continues lobbying for new service routes, nothing is anticipated in the short term.
"The better you do, the more leverage you have to try to do better," Case said.
The airport announced last month it would lower landing fees, in hopes of improving its competitiveness with other airports.
"We waive landing fees the first year for new routes when people are trying to prove themselves in the market," Case said. "Other airports do similar things as well. Some outright subsidize service and I haven't really been an advocate for that. Salem subsidized service to Salt Lake City a few years ago and when they ran out, the airline quit as well. If it's not a good market, it's not going to make it with subsidies."
In the coming year, Case said a taxiway loop, enabling unrestricted flow of traffic past the U.S. Forest Service tanker base, Million Air of Medford and Medford Air, will be completed.
The runway will also go through its first major reconstruction in 30 years, he said. Work will be done at late night and early in the morning to avoid interruption of scheduled flights.
— Greg Stiles