News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Air service from Redmond to Portland ends November 4

The last nonstop flight to Portland, the 7 a.m. Alaska Airlines jump, will make its final flight November 3, due to lack of sufficient passenger traffic. The loss of commercial air service between Central Oregon and PDX (Portland International) is more symbolic than meaningful. Rarely would anybody from Sisters or Deschutes County fly to the Rose City unless they were connecting. It was much easier just to jump in your car or truck and arrive in under three hours, weather permitting.

Two things factored into Alaska Air Group’s decision. One, Portland with its tourism image in tatters from more than a year of civil unrest, found airlines unable to fill seats going to Portland; thus schedules were reduced leading to fewer flights available returning from Portland. A year ago, for example, there were six nonstop flights a day from New York’s three airports. Today there are three, with many empty seats. Businesses are apparently reluctant to book meetings in the once-storied conference and convention city.

COVID-19 dented tourism and business travel everywhere. A survey conducted by the City of Portland, however, found 68 percent of respondents said their top reason for not visiting Portland was due to the riots and protests. Scenes of a city trying to emerge from one of its most wrenching periods, one that saw its reputation go from quirky “Portlandia” to violent dystopia in the minds of a majority of out-of-state travelers on the outside

looking in.

Officials have committed millions of dollars to cleaning up downtown — removing graffiti, clearing large homeless encampments, and restoring damaged buildings. Additionally, the mayor’s office has launched a reputation and rebranding effort.

“We’re doggedly determined to recover,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in his state-of-the-city address this year. “Our community has what it takes to move forward to a much greater future.”

The second impact on Portland as a connecting hub from Redmond was the competition from Seattle’s airport, which offers a vastly larger map of destinations, particularly international. A year ago, Portland had nonstop flights to London, Amsterdam, and Tokyo, and others that no longer operate. From Seattle you can get to 121 destinations nonstop in 17 countries compared to 75 and seven from PDX.

So, what to do if you prefer PDX (Portland) or the flight times from PDX are better? You can always drive and park, do a one-way car rental, or take the shuttle. None make much economic sense if you factor in gas or put any value at all on your time.

Seattle generally gives you the best price for long-distance travel. For example: Redmond to Boston via Denver on October 26th and returning a week later is $326. Through Seattle it is $288. Or to Paris, it’s $1,242 via Denver and $859 connecting in Seattle.

As always you have to factor in total elapsed times, number of connections, aircraft type (seating is important), meals, baggage fees, and connecting cities. San Francisco with its notorious fog is always a risk for international connections. And do you want to connect in Chicago in


If you are determined that Portland is your preferred gateway, and you want to drive, then figure about $35 in gas from Sisters and parking at $6/day — long term, meaning a long shuttle ride. Add 30 minutes. A one-way car rental will take about $102, double the pre-COVID rate, and the same gas bill.

Or, the shuttle, the method most people haven’t heard of, means getting to Redmond for the 7:30 a.m. pickup. Six stops later, you are at PDX at 10:45 a.m. The return trip is at 3:45 p.m. getting you to Redmond at 7 p.m. The lowest fare is $52, non-refundable, and includes one piece of luggage. Additional or oversized luggage, bikes (boxed or bagged), skis or boards, golf bags, and pets up to 15 pounds are


The service is provided by Bend’s Central Oregon Breeze. There is no discount for a round-trip ticket. Until further notice, there is no Saturday service. The ride is in a bus that looks like most city buses.

Shuttle Oregon, based in Bend, will take you to Salem or Portland’s Union Station any day but Saturday, but not to PDX. Departing Sisters at 9:30 a.m., you’ll get to the train station, a dozen blocks from downtown, at 12:30 p.m. for $50 ($45 for seniors).

There is a $4 reduction for round trip. Service animals are free. Regular pooches are $10. For $5 more, you can take your bike. Standard services include WiFi, Sirius Satellite Radio, and complimentary snacks and beverages in a 14-person shuttle van.

You can’t wing your way to PDX but it’s nice to know your options.

(Editor’s note: Bill Bartlett is owner/operator of Cascade Travel in Sisters.)


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