The eight commercial airports in North Dakota saw a total of 42,238 passengers board airplanes in January.

According to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, the total number of passengers represents a 57% decline from the pre-pandemic period of January 2020, but airports in North Dakota have been trending slightly above the national average.

“The negative impacts that COVID-19 has had on airline passenger demand is continuing into 2021,” said Kyle Wanner, executive director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, in a news release. “It is, however, encouraging to see COVID-19 cases in North Dakota and throughout the country trending lower, which can have a direct impact on an individual’s decision to travel. We also remain optimistic that further passenger growth will occur as spring approaches, and pent up travel demand may help to jumpstart the recovery.”

At Grand Forks International Airport, 3,817 passengers boarded airplanes in January, compared to 8,741 people for the same month last year. Fargo’s Hector International Airport saw 18,402 January enplanements, after logging 43,556 in 2020. Bismarck had 10,893 passengers in the first month of the year, and Minot had 5,845. Devils Lake finished the month with 266 passengers, down from 612 last year.

According to the Aeronautics Commission, North Dakota airports are faring slightly better than the national average, in terms of passengers. In January, North Dakota’s combined airports saw 42.3% of the number of passengers for the same month in 2020. Nationally, that figure is 38.1%. That trend has continued throughout the pandemic.

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“December was obviously a better month than January, which is normally to be expected,” Wanner told the Herald. “But what we want to see is that continual growth back to the numbers that we saw pre-pandemic."

Wanner said he is fine with the passenger numbers, and aeronautic officials don’t expect them to rebound all at once. Decreasing cases of the coronavirus, along with the increasing number of people receiving vaccinations, should spark demand to travel in the spring and summer, he said. Until that time, Aeronautics Commission members will work to ensure airports are providing their passengers the best service possible.