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Published January 13 2010

Hector sets another record

Fargo’s Hector International Airport set another passenger record in 2009.

Last year, 348,961 passengers enplaned at Hector, breaking the old record of 324,434 in 2008.

“We’re pretty pleased,” said Shawn Dobberstein, the airport’s executive director.

He cited these factors for the increase:

  • The relative good health of the Fargo-Moorhead economy.

  • Hector’s nonstop service to eight cities, a higher-than-average number for a regional airport.

  • The convenience of flying out of Hector and the fares offered by its carriers.

  • The arrival of Denver-based carrier Frontier Airlines at Hector in the spring of 2008, which continued to bolster ridership through 2009.

    “So it was a combination of things,” Dobberstein said.

    Hector’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed across the state, said Larry Taborsky, director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission in Bismarck.

    Hector has benefitted from good staff, a good Municipal Airport Authority and increased flights, he said.

    The airport’s increase in passengers comes at a time when air ridership nationwide is struggling because of the weak economy.

    Nationally, the number of domestic passengers in the 12 months from October 2008 to September 2009 fell to 709.1 million from 765.2 million in the same 12-month period a year earlier, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

    Hector is optimistic about 2010 and projects a 3 percent increase in enplanements this year over 2009, Dobberstein said.

    Though falling short of the 7.9 percent increase in 2009 over 2008, a gain of 3 percent would represent significant growth, he said.

    American Eagle Airlines, the regional affiliate for American Airlines, will begin service in April between Hector and Chicago’s O’Hare International.

    United Express already offers Hector/Chicago service, but the arrival of American Eagle will provide more options for fliers.

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