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Boardings increase at Grand Forks airport

The Byron L. Dorgan Terminal at the Grand Forks International Airport. (Grand Forks Herald file photo by John Hageman)

More passengers are flying out of Grand Forks International Airport and many of the airports across the state.

Boardings in March at the Grand Forks airport increased nearly 14% in 2019, according to data from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission. The Grand Forks airport also is seeing a year-to-date increase of 5.48%.

Ryan Riesinger, executive director of the Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority, said the airport added additional flights on Allegiant in March, including four flights per week to Phoenix and two flights each to Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas.

These additional flights also had a high "load factor," Riesinger said. These flights were between 88% and 89% full.

"So we have more flights and they are almost totally full," Riesinger said.

All airports in North Dakota saw an increase of 11.71% from March 2018 to March 2019 and a year-to-date increase of 9%.

Kyle Wanner, director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, said statewide growth is "very welcome."

"We're in a very good place; boardings are up 11% across the state," Wanner said. "Individual airports have their own challenges, but if you look at where we were a couple years ago to where we are now, we're in a really good situation for air service across the state."

Boardings peaked in 2014 and declined until 2018, according to the data.

Wanner said decreases are due to a "bust" in the oil industry and downturn in agriculture.

In Grand Forks specifically, Wanner said decreases occurred because the Canadian dollar is worth a quarter less than the American dollar. The Grand Forks airport also discontinued direct flights to Denver in late 2013. Boardings in Grand Forks are now "normalizing."

"Grand Forks has a lot of room to accommodate additional growth because they lost a significant amount of seats," Wanner said.

Boardings at the Grand Forks airport peaked in 2014 at 40,297 boardings. Today, the airport has almost 31,000 boardings, according to the data.

"We believe we'll be in a good position to continue forward in 2019 and continue working with our airlines to best serve passengers here in our region," Riesinger said.

Hector International Airport in Fargo had a 6% increase in boardings from last March to March of this year. Fargo also had a 6% increase in boardings year-to-date, according to the data.

The Bismarck Airport had a nearly 24% increase in passengers from March of 2018 to March of this year. The airport saw a year-to-date increase of 15.71%. Wanner said Bismarck has seen record growth for the past 10 years.

Wanner said the growth seen all around the state is a reminder of what can happen when local airports are supported.

"It is important that people continue to use their local airport," Wanner said. "It does have an impact over time."

Bonnie Meibers

Meibers joined the Herald in September of 2018. She reports on all things business in Grand Forks and the surrounding areas. Have a tip or want to get to know her? Call her at (701) 780-1114 or email her at bmeibers@gfherald.com.

(701) 780-1114