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Flights increase at Grand Forks airport as construction plans continue

Allegiant Air has resumed service in Grand Forks and Delta Airlines has upped the number of round-trip flights to Minneapolis to four per day.

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Workers at Grand Forks International Airport tend to a Delta jet, recently arrived from Minneapolis, as a private airplane takes off in the background Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)
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GRAND FORKS — After a rough patch in operations for airlines across the country, more flights have been added by the carriers that serve Grand Forks International Airport.

Airlines weathered a recent period of bad weather that saw thousands of flights canceled across the country, and those carriers continue to battle with crew shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic. But despite those setbacks, Allegiant Air has resumed service in Grand Forks and Delta Airlines has upped the number of round-trip flights to Minneapolis to four per day.

According to Ryan Riesinger, executive director of the airport, Delta dropped the number of flights to three per day, due to crew shortages. Problems arise when crew members test positive for the coronavirus and then have to quarantine for a period of time. Delta was set to add an additional daily flight at GFK in September 2021, and it did for about two weeks. The number of flights dropped to three per day when those positive tests added up.

“We've been attempting to get back to four flights a day for some time now,” Riesinger said.

Allegiant Air returned to GFK on Wednesday, Jan. 5, Riesinger said. The carrier offers flights to warmer southern destinations including Mesa, Arizona and Las Vegas. January, February and March are the busiest months for Allegiant at GFK, Riesinger said.

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“We were happy to see those (flights) return,” he said.

Though the most recent passenger numbers were not yet available, Riesinger said Delta flights were hitting about 80% capacity in late 2021, and a recent Allegiant flight to Mesa also was well-booked.

Weather has proven disastrous recently for flights across the country. Through Thursday last week, about 24,000 flights were canceled, Riesinger said. Grand Forks also faced a similar situation when Blizzard Becca rolled through town late Tuesday, Jan. 4 and early the following day.

But the coronavirus is still something that Riesinger said he is keeping his eye on. The omicron variant of the coronavirus has hit airlines hard, though he said, but at least locally, things appear to have stabilized for those crews he said.

Construction plans at GFK

Riesinger said plans to rebuild the intersection of GFK’s two main runways are well underway. The project is part of the plans there to rebuild the crosswind runway, to make it usable for commercial traffic, or as a backup should the main runway need repairs. Riesinger said bidding for the project will happen later this year, and airport management have already notified the airlines of the intent to undertake the project.

The construction means Grand Forks will be without flight service between Aug. 22 and Sept. 2. Timing for the project is important, and is being budgeted out carefully. Riesling said the plan is to have a commercial flight land at GFK on the last day of construction, shortly after it is completed. The closure of the runways only applies to commercial aviation.

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