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North Dakota airline boardings hit record in 2011

(Herald file photo by John Stennes)1 / 2
The baggage claim area at the Byron L. Dorgan Terminal. Herald photo by John Stennes.2 / 2

Airline boardings in North Dakota finished a record year, up 9.2 percent over 2010, with a record December, bolstered by huge gains in the western part of the state where oil development has spurred airline activity, according to a report Thursday from the state Aeronautics Commission.

The largest airport, in fact, in Fargo, was the only one of the state's eight commercial airports that saw a decrease in boardings for 2011 over 2010, with 350,458 boardings.

While Fargo makes up a full 40 percent of the state's total, Hector International was down 3.5 percent, which is in line with national flying trends, according to Larry Taborksy, director of the Commission.

Otherwise, it's all up, up and away, a sign of the state's positive economy, he said.

"The airports are seeing the effects of the state's prosperity," Taborsky said in a news release. "The airport is the gateway to and from our state."

It's not only the Oil Patch, but the expansion of Allegiant Air flying to Las Vegas and Phoenix, as well as increased activity in Devils Lake linked to National Guard training at Camp Grafton there that draws soldiers from many states, Taborksy told the Herald last month. It means lots of work is needed at airports in Minot, Devils Lake, Williston and Dickinson to handle the increased traffic, he said.

Total boardings were 872,169 last year, up 9.16 percent from 2010 and a record; it's up 62 percent in the past decade.

Grand Forks saw a 1.26 percent increase in boardings for the year, to 116,938, also a record.

Minot surpassed Grand Forks in boardings for the first time last year, totaling 150,450, a 65.7 percent increase over 2010.

Although Fargo saw its first decline last year in a decade, except for a relapse in 2007, its boardings are up 52 percent since 2002.

The big gainers, of course, were: Dickinson's airport, which was up 83.1 percent for the year, to 18,958 and Williston, up 74.7 percent to 27,774.

Bismarck saw a 1.22 percent increase to 196,414 boardings.

Devils Lake was up 11 percent to 5,488 boardings and Jamestown was up 32.8 percent to 5,689 for the year.

December boardings totaled 84,169 statewide, up 9.16 percent.