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Klamath Falls Airport

The city of Klamath Falls is hoping to have Anchorage, Alaska-based Peninsula Air, also known as PenAir, return commercial air service here by Jan. 1.

Monday, the City of Klamath Falls was notified verbally by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that it will not be returning to the Crater Lake – Klamath Regional Airport. Unfortunately, this decision deals a serious setback to the city’s efforts to re-establish air service, the city said in a press release issued late Wednesday.

Passenger air service is crucial for the continued economic vitality of any city.

In July 2015, PenAir provided the City of Klamath Falls with a letter of intent to start twice-daily service between Klamath Falls and Portland as soon as November. The city immediately submitted a request to the TSA for a decision to re-federalize the airport so that TSA screening personnel and equipment could be put back in place. The TSA notified the city it would take approximately 90 days before a decision is made.

“The city is deeply disappointed with the TSA’s decision,” says Klamath Falls City Manager Nathan Cherpeski, “but we’re not giving up on finding a way for PenAir to begin service to Portland.”

The city has learned that the Portland International Airport (PDX) is considering establishing a reverse screening area that would allow passengers from airports without TSA screening services to arrive, be screened and flow directly into the main terminal.

“We understand that PDX will be analyzing the feasibility of this concept over the next month and we hope for a positive outcome that would allow us to move forward with PenAir,” said Cherpeski.

“PenAir remains committed to the idea of providing service to the Klamath Falls community.” says Dave Hall, Chief Operating Officer for PenAir. “We support any plan that would allow a potential customer to fly out of Klamath Falls without incurring any unnecessary time delays or costs that would put us at a competitive disadvantage compared to flying out of Medford.”

“TSA’s decision to not re-federalize its airport is extremely disappointing,’’ said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. “The residents of Klamath Falls and the region deserve full security screening service as part of a commercial airport, which is so vitally important to the area’s economic success.

“If TSA's proposed interim solution for screening in Portland proves to be a barrier in getting a carrier to provide air service to Klamath Falls in the short term, then other options must be explored,” Senator Wyden said. “I am fully committed to exploring those options and I encourage all the parties to work together toward the common goal of returning badly needed air service to Klamath Falls as soon as possible.”

“I am incredibly disappointed that the TSA has decided to abandon Klamath Falls. Once again, a faceless bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. is ignoring the needs of rural Oregon communities and the people who make their home and living here. I will continue to work hard with the local community and Pen Air to press the Administration to come up with a solution that keeps all travelers safe and secure and reinstates this important service to the local economy. This is essential to ensuring that safe, reliable air service returns to Klamath Falls as soon as possible,” said U.S. Representative Greg Walden.

Merkley stated, “I am extremely disappointed in TSA’s decision to not return full security screening service to Klamath Falls by re-federalizing its airport.

“The compromise proposed by TSA falls short of providing passengers with the convenience and security that would be provided by re-federalization and may hurt the chances of getting passenger air service to Klamath Falls. Having passenger air service is vitally important to the economic success of the region and we remain committed to helping get the airport back up and running.

“I look forward to participating in ongoing discussions with the City of Klamath Falls, the Port of Portland, Pen Air and TSA to find a viable solution that meets both travelers’ need for convenience and the essential need for security on all flights. I will remain engaged in this important effort and encourage all parties to work in good faith so air service can return to Klamath Falls as soon as possible.”

City Airport Director John Barsalou remains hopeful that a solution will be found that makes it viable for PenAir to provide service. “We are, as is the entire community, anxious for the return of air service to the airport but we’re also aware that for its long term success it has to be competitive with service out of Medford.”

The Airport appreciates the continued community support it has received throughout the decision making process. “We are pursuing all options to reestablish air service and will keep the community informed of our progress,” says John Barsalou.

Gerry O'Brien is the editor for The Herald and News. Email him at gobrien@heraldandnews.com or follow him in Twitter at  @gerry_obrien1