A group of people discussed how to get a major air carrier to fly out of Salem's McNary Field in late 2017. Since then...
The Fly Salem Steering Committee was formed. It's anchored by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, SEDCOR, and Travel Salem.
Private funds were used to buy a "Leakage and Retention Study." This study provided data about how many tickets were purchased in our area, from which zip code, at what cost, and to which destinations.
Additional private donations were used to hire Volaire Aviation Consulting to develop a Strategic Plan.
Meetings were convened with major community leaders to gauge the level of interest. We found passion for the idea of air service in Salem.
A community conversation was held at the Salem Convention Center on June 11, 2018 to present the Strategic Plan, spread the word and gain feedback from a wide audience. 270 attended with guests ranging from Corvallis to McMinnville to Woodburn. As you can see in the poll results, feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
The Salem Chamber of Commerce has agreed to be the applicant and fiduciary for the ROAR grant funds. UPDATE: Grant awarded, April 2019.
Volaire Aviation was contracted by us to write and submit the SCASD Grant. It's ready to go when the US DOT opens the window for new submissions - expected to be in June of 2019. UPDATE: SCASD Grant application submitted to Federal Department of Transportation on July 11, 2019.
The first meetings with the airlines were held on April 24-26, 2019 in Tucson, AZ. Meetings with United, Alaska, Sky West, and Southwest were encouraging. Meetings with Alaska, Untied, and SkyWest were encouraging. Our community support and statistics were said to be "COMPELLING!" The second opportunity to meet with airlines are at the Take-Off Conference on October 28-29th, 2019.
✈️ * * * UPDATE * * * ✈️
Our representatives met with six airlines in one-on-one sessions in Orlando on October 28 and 29. The following is a summary of those meetings:
SkyWest continues to evaluate service at Salem, under the United Airlines code, to both San Francisco (SFO) and Denver. United has taken-over all SkyWest “at-risk” flying at San Francisco – so SkyWest no longer flies anything of its own choosing from that hub. However, SkyWest planners said they could work with United to add at-risk cities if the opportunity justified the investment.
SkyWest operates a large at-risk portfolio at Denver, and United would like SkyWest to increase its presence at the Denver hub. This could be a more immediate opportunity.
SkyWest is monitoring the Federal Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) Grant awards. If Salem
wins an award in this cycle (which will likely be announced in December), a headquarters meeting at SkyWest in St. George, Utah, should be the first follow-up on the “to do” list.
United similarly is aware of Salem and the potential opportunity for service to San Francisco. United’s regional planning team has been spending the majority of its time in 2019 mitigating the loss of the 737 MAX from the fleet. United has had to replace flying for 34 MAX aircraft that should be in service today.
This mitigation has postponed United regional expansion, as regional jets have been filling in for mainline jets that have been replacing lines of flying that the MAX should have been operating. Until the MAX is back in service, United won’t be spending much time evaluating new cities. But once it
has returned to the fleet United will be ready to consider expansion. United is watching SCASD Grant awards closely and will likely be ready to meet once Salem has an award and once the MAX is back in service.
The planners from American Airlines said they were happy to learn about the Salem opportunity, as they were unaware of the depth of potential market support before the meeting. They agree that the market is large enough to likely support network, scheduled airline service.
American’s biggest challenge is the location and position of its hubs. Its closest hubs to Salem are Phoenix (PHX) and Los Angeles (LAX). LAX is space constrained. American is, essentially, out of gate space for new flights. Phoenix doesn’t perform particularly well to the Pacific Northwest (including Eugene, Medford, and Bend/Redmond). American’s representatives will be presenting the Salem business case to the specific network planners who manage the Phoenix and Los Angeles hubs. They have asked to be notified as soon as Salem has a SCASD Grant award.
Allegiant continues to look for expansion options for service from Las Vegas and Phoenix-Mesa (AZA). Allegiant would not require a revenue guarantee – but would require continuing low airport costs and marketing support. Generally, Allegiant said they prefer to serve airports with runways at least 6,000 feet long, but that it does make exceptions if they safety area is large enough, which is likely the case in Salem. Allegiant did say it would continue to evaluate Salem for service. But it has concerns that Salem is too close to its existing Eugene service.
Sun Country Airlines:
Sun Country has opened a new base at Portland (PDX), including a flight attendant domicile. Sun Country now has nonstop flights from PDX to destinations, including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Francisco, St. Louis, Nashville, San Antonio, Honolulu, Orlando, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta.
Sun Country’s representative said that Portland performs very well in the summer, but service is weak in the winter. It is unclear how Portland will continue in the Sun Country strategy in the future.
Sun Country would be unlikely to serve both PDX and Salem. If it served Salem it would likely be because it believed it could serve Portland from Salem’s Airport.
Contour has a growing hub at Oakland (OAK). It is willing to consider daily Salem – Oakland nonstops operated with a 30-seat Embraer ERJ135 regional jet. However, it lacks connectivity with a major airline, so the flights would rely almost entirely on local passengers traveling only between Salem and the Bay Area. Contour would likely be happy to begin service with the revenue guarantee, but it should be
considered a final option if no other airline service is possible.
And now... the business community is raising pledges toward a 1.75 million reserve pool as a tool to recruit an airline. (see details)
further from PDX
San Jose is from SFO.