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Jon Knutson, Published September 18 2009

Better airfares possible in Fargo

Consumers could get better deals on airfares when American Airlines expands service to Fargo in April, local airport and travel officials say.

“I’m all about choice. And having more choices can lead to better prices,” said Nancy Jurgens-Aughinbaugh, owner of Kvamme Travel & Cruises, Moorhead.

American Airlines announced Wednesday that it will add up to three daily round-trip 50-seat flights in April between Fargo’s Hector International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The flights will be offered by American Eagle, a regional carrier for American Airlines.

Further details of the flights weren’t available Thursday.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Shawn Dobberstein, Hector’s executive director, said of the American flights between Fargo and Chicago.

He said American apparently will have flights available for sale in late December or early January, or at least 90 days before service begins.

United Airlines already offers flights between Fargo and Chicago.

Adding American flights between the two cities potentially can help consumers, Dobberstein said.

“Competition can lead to lower prices,” he said.

American served Fargo from May 1992 until pulling out in January 1994, he said.

Dobberstein said he’s optimistic that American will stay longer this time.

Both he and Jurgens-Aughinbaugh said they’re hopeful American eventually could expand Fargo service to cities other than Chicago.

The Chicago flights allow the Fargo area to “get our foot in the door with American,” said Brian Walters, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp.

“We hope Chicago could serve as a springboard to other American hubs, including Dallas,” he said.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American serves 250 cities in 40 countries with, on average, more than 3,400 daily flights, according to the company’s Web site.

The development corporation will reimburse American up to $134,000 for start-up fees and expenses at Hector, Walters said.

That’s much less than some communities offer to attract new air service, he said.

“In the competitive landscape, that’s conservative,” he said. “We feel it’s an appropriate offering.”

Hector also expects to provide around $50,000 in one-time financial support to American, Walters said.

That same financial support is offered by the airport to any airline that brings in new service to Hector, Walters said.

The combined total value of the financial package from the development corporation and airport will not exceed $184,000, he said.

Enhancing air service in Fargo is essential, Walters aid.

“Our future is very much going to be defined by making sure our community has globally competitive infrastructure that supports companies doing business worldwide,” he said.

American Airlines will be adding more than 50 daily flights to its Chicago hub, Gerald Arpey, the head of American’s parent company, said in a letter Wednesday to employees.

The airline is fighting through the challenges created by the recession while also laying the groundwork for its future, he said.

American will be offering increased flights in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami, as well as in Chicago, according to the Associated Press.

But American, the nation’s second-largest airline, will reduce flights in Raleigh/Durham, N.C., and St. Louis, where American is giving up major ground to Southwest Airlines, the AP said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530