The Fly Salem Steering Committee was formed in 2018 and is anchored by representatives from Travel Salem, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR), and the City of Salem Airport Manager.
Private funds were used to buy a “Leakage and Retention Study” and subsequent Strategic Plan through Volaire Aviation consultants. The study was updated for the calendar year 2019 as a pre-pandemic benchmark. With this data, we learned how many people are flying, from what zip codes, where they fly, and what they pay. The second study was paid for largely with a ROAR Grant from the Oregon Department of Aviation, in addition to matching private donations.
There is a conservative figure of 650,000 people in the “catchment area” from which we expect to draw local passengers. The Mid-Willamette Valley has one of the highest populations and economies of many western cities that currently have service.
In the last five years, we have met face-to-face with the following airlines: Airbahn, Alaska, Allegiant Air, American, Avelo, Breeze Airways, Contour, Frontier, SkyWest, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, and United.
Our data shows the top four destinations from the Mid-Valley are: 1) The Los Angeles basin, 2) Las Vegas, 3) Phoenix, and 4) San Francisco Bay Area. We are striving to get non-stop service to each of these by the end of 2024.
Salem Airport (SLE) is further from PDX than San Jose is from SFO. And Everett is from SEA. Due to Oregon land use laws, the population density will increase along the I-5 corridor over time, making getting to PDX even more troublesome.
Fun Facts: We are the largest market in the Western US without a non-stop flight to SFO. Same for Phoenix. We are the largest market in the world without a non-stop service to Los Angeles. Same for Denver.
Our catchment area generated 12 million passengers in 2019—6% more than in 2017. This is enough to put over 150 passengers on ten flights each day! Only a low percentage of those passengers will need to choose SLE over PDX or EUG for us to be successful.
It’s important to note this is actual 2019 data, not projections. With this pre-pandemic baseline, we can determine what ticket demand will be as we return to pre-pandemic passenger demand.