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Area airports see increased passenger counts over Thanksgiving holiday

Thief River Falls Regional Airport closing in on 40-year high in passenger count

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A Denver Air Connections jet parks on the ramp outside of the Thief River Falls Regional Airport terminal Thursday, June 17, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — The Thanksgiving holiday typically sees increased demand in air travel across the nation, and the Grand Forks region was no exception this Thanksgiving.

According to the FAA, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holiday travel periods of the year. The busiest single day for aviation travel during the holiday week was set on Tuesday, Nov. 22, with 48,082 departures nationwide. Wednesday and Sunday were similarly busy, with 45,721 and 46,790 departures, respectively.

Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of Hector International Airport in Fargo, said passenger traffic was consistent throughout the holiday week. According to Dobberstein, 1,652 passengers were processed by the Transportation Security Administration on Wednesday, Nov. 23, a significant increase from typical figures.

“We filled the majority of our seats, and saw high demand for parking space,” said Dobberstein. “Fortunately, we opened an additional economy parking lot the day before Thanksgiving, allowing us to better cope with the increased demand.”

At Grand Forks International Airport, passenger numbers for the week of Nov. 20-27 increased from the same period last year. According to Ryan Riesinger, executive director of the Grand Forks Airport Authority, the aforementioned week saw 2,020 passengers, versus 1,865 passengers during the same week in 2021.

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“A typical non-holiday week sees about 1,500 passengers, so the Thanksgiving period represents a significant increase,” said Riesinger.

Joe Hedrick, airport manager at Thief River Falls Regional Airport, which offers 12 weekly round-trip flights to Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, said demand on the route has increased. Hedrick attributes the increased demand to two factors — holiday travel and a recently launched sale.

“Two weeks ago, Denver Air Connection announced a $99 one-way sale to MSP,” said Hedrick. “This sale, coinciding with Thanksgiving, has resulted in historically high demand.”

Jon Coleman, director of business development for Denver Air Connection, concurred with Hedrick.

“Anecdotally, I can say that passenger numbers over the past few weeks have been about double their normal levels,” said Hedrick. “Thief River Falls Airport is close to reaching 8,000 passenger enplanements for the first time in 40 years.”

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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