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Economic News

PDX Travelers Seeing New International Options

April 13,2015 | By Kate Davidson and Spencer Raymond, OPB
A Delta 767 lands at PDX in 2010.

A Delta 767 lands at PDX in 2010.

Daniel T Jones/Flickr

New Intl. Flights From PDX

Frankfurt, Germany - Condor (begins June 14, 2015)

Reykjavik, Iceland - Iceland Air (begins May 20, 2015)

Guadalajara, Mexico - Volaris (began Oct. 6, 2014)

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Alaska Air (began Nov. 4, 2014)

Los Cabos, Mexico - Alaska Air (began Nov. 20, 2014)

Portland International Airport was once a hub for international travel.

In the late 1980’s PDX was a hub for Delta flights to Asia. By 2009, Lufthansa had ceased flying to Frankfurt, leaving just two long-haul international flights: Northwest Airlines to Amsterdam and Tokyo. PDX also has several shorter flights to Canada.

This summer a total of five new international flights will serve PDX. 

OPB’s Kate Davidson talked with David Zielke from the Port of Portland about the airport’s international service. Zielke is the general manager for air service development at the Port.

The following exchange has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Kate Davidson: The five new flights are to Reykjavik, Iceland; Frankfurt, Germany; and three destinations in Mexico: Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos. What has changed to get PDX from a relatively small number, to nine international destinations?

Existing Intl. Flights From PDX

Tokyo, Japan - Delta

Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Delta

Vancouver, British Colombia - Air Canada

Calgary, Alberta - Air Canada

David Zielke:  We’re excited. We’re not a large market so we have to be aggressive in recruiting air service, so we’re very pleased with the growth we’ve seen over the past few months. The Latin America service really reflects the growing Hispanic population, for the Guadalajara service, and a growing economy reflects the incremental income people can use to fly to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.  As for the Reykjavik and the Frankfurt service, with Condor and Iceland Air (respectively), specifically reflects the strong demand for travel to and from Europe from the Pacific Northwest in the summer months.

KD: Condor with their Frankfurt service, and Iceland Air with Reykjavik, approached PDX saying they wanted to fly here. What are the airlines telling you about why they want to serve PDX?

DZ: One of the things they told us right away was that they’re seeing a lot of people that are either driving or flying to Seattle from Portland to get on the Condor flight or the Iceland Air flight out of Seattle. They saw that as a real opportunity: that if there’s that much demand from Portland without the air service, why not bring a plane to Portland.

Top European Destinations from PDX

1. London

2. Amsterdam

3. Paris

4. Frankfut

5. Rome

Source: Port of Portland

KD: You’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest and worked for the airline industry for a long time. Looking at the state of international travel from Portland right now, is it just another chapter of flights that come and go, or is there something that has really been changing about the Pacific Northwest that informs the state of international travel right now?

DZ: I think there’s two parts to that. One is, if you asked people in Japan or Europe 25 years ago, Where’s Oregon? They wouldn’t have known where it was, honestly. That’s how nondescript the brand was of Oregon. Now, the brand of Oregon is popular. People are aware of it. They like the sustainability aspect of Oregon, they like the quality of life, the lifestyle here, the food, the tax-free shopping. From a tourism standpoint, there’s a brand awareness that wasn’t there 25 years ago. I think we’re seeing real progress in that area.

The other part is the economic growth. The growth of Nike, Intel, the apparel/footwear industry, high tech, sustainable industries, and international companies that have actually relocated to Oregon, that has been a really significant growth over the last 25 years.

A good example is 130 Japanese companies have invested in Oregon and Southwest Washington. That is huge in terms of the ability to support an non-stop flight to Tokyo, Japan.  It’s an impressive number, 130 companies, that do business here.  They need transportation back and forth between here and Japan. 

KD: What is the next international destination that PDX would love to fly to?

DZ: I think we’d love to see summer seasonal to Paris. We’ve had some discussions with Delta about that. (But) they certainly haven’t make any commitments to us.  Delta has a hub in Paris and that would create not only non-stop service into Paris, which is one of our top markets to Europe, but connections to all of Europe beyond their hub. I would say our wish from the Port’s standpoint, and probably from our partners in the community, would be a summer seasonal flight to Paris.

Editor’s Note: Condor Airlines is a sponsor of OPB.

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