Grand Forks International Airport noting an increase in Canadian customers since the border opened
Allegiant expected to resume flights in January.
Grand Forks International Airport has seen a notable uptick in customers from Canada since the easing of COVID-19 border restrictions.
To track points of origin for its customers, the airport counts license plates in its parking lots. In recent weeks, Ryan Riesinger, executive director of the Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority, said those counts show an encouraging trend.
Prior to Nov. 8, the percentage of Canadian cars in the airport lots was in the low single digits, Riesinger said. But from Nov. 8 through mid-December, nearly one in five cars in the airport parking lots has been from Canada.
"So we do see that the effect with the restriction was lessened,” he said.
However, the looming threat of the omicron variant may cause travel across the U.S.-Canada border to again become more cumbersome.
“I think it's important also to note, early on, there was still a requirement for Canadians to be retested going back into Canada,” Riesinger said. “That was removed, but what I'm learning here recently within the past couple of days is that requirement has been reinstated due to omicron.”
On Dec. 10, Canada’s public health agency published an epidemiology report finding an increase in COVID-19 cases since early November — around the same time the border opened for Canadian citizens to travel into the United States. The emergence and swift dominance of the omicron variant compared to the delta variant and the novel 2019 coronavirus led the Canadian government on Dec. 15 to issue an advisory against all nonessential travel for the next four weeks, after which the government will either extend it or let it expire. The precautions include more testing at the border, as well.
“It's a changing environment,” Riesinger said. “We'll continue to monitor, but certainly the ability for Canadians to cross the border and the land crossing, as they have going back pre-COVID, is a positive thing for the airport, as well as the community and region. Certainly, Canadians historically have come down in strong numbers and not only use the airport, but stayed in the community for weekends, shopping, restaurants and all those sorts of things. We certainly hope that we return to a more normal policy sooner rather than later, relative to restrictions from the coronavirus.”
The airport also suffered a setback when Allegiant announced it would discontinue flights in and out for the entirety of December. Riesinger said there have been no indications the moratorium would be extended and as of now, Allegiant flights will resume Jan. 1.
“We anticipate that the Allegiant flights will be back essentially to pre-COVID numbers and levels,” Riesinger said. “We think that demand is going to be very strong going forward, so I wouldn't say that it's an impact all winter long, only during this month that we’re currently in.”