Mapping PDX’s Newest Direct Flights to International Locales

With five new international destinations, our cozy little airport is filling its passport. Here’s a look at the stories (and strategies) behind PDX’s global connections.

By Keegan Clements-Housser January 5, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Guadalajara: The Homecoming

Airline: Volaris
The story: Launched early last October, this low-cost route courts Oregonians of Mexican descent and their families. “We started with two weekly frequencies, and were quite overwhelmed by demand,” says Volaris spokesman Holger Blankenstein. The company added a third flight time, and plans to add a fourth soon. “We are definitely here to stay in Portland.”

VancouverThe Cascadian Connector

Airlines: Alaska Airlines, Air Canada
The story: Since Alaska Airlines started its Portland-Vancouver route in 1989, and Air Canada followed suit in 1990, these links between economically and culturally entwined Cascadian cities have enjoyed long track records of success.

Calgary: The Black-Gold Express

Airline: Air Canada
The story: Intended to complement Air Canada’s longstanding Portland-Vancouver route, this service, started in 2009, sees a diverse mix of tourists and businesspeople heading for energy-enriched Calgary.  

Los Cabos & Puerto Vallarta: Sun Survival Line

Airline: Alaska Airlines
The story: In contrast to the Guadalajara route, the direct flights to these beach communities, started in November, aim at tourists seeking relief from the gloom of Pacific Northwest winters. Alaska, which flies 1.5 million passengers a year to Mexico, serves a growing list of resort destinations like Loreto and Mazatlán.
through April

Amsterdam: Really, It’s Not About the “Cafés.”

Airline: Delta Airlines
The story: Started in 2008, PDX’s only year-round flight to Europe serves many of PDX’s 375,000 annual trans-Atlantic travelers, giving Portlanders a link to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

FrankfurtThe Backpacker’s Special

Airline: Condor Airlines
The story: 
This seasonal route could be seen as the daughter of the direct flight Lufthansa discontinued in 2009. But Condor has a different take. “We’re looking at routes without enough demand to produce a year-round, business class–driven service,” says Condor’s Jens Boyd, “but that appeal to travelers looking to explore the world.” Condor will market both Frankfurt and Portland as tourism gateways into their respective regions.
Season: June–September

ReykjavikHere We Go a-Viking!

Airline: Icelandair
The story: With its HQ perched in the North Atlantic between North America and Europe, Icelandair has long marketed Reykjavik as an international connection. This debut seasonal link will also lure visitors to Iceland itself by offering a layover of up to seven days, with no added ticket fee.
Season: May–October

TokyoThe Gateway to Asia

Airline: Delta Airlines
The story: This service recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Like its Amsterdam sibling, the route serves as both Portland’s only direct business link to Asia and a booming tourism conduit. The Port of Portland offered Delta a $3.5 million “service retention fee” in 2009 to sustain the route through the recession.

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