Angie Wieck, Published January 21 2013
ND airports shuttle record-breaking 1.02 million travelers in 2012FARGO – The number of travelers boarding airplanes at North Dakota’s eight commercial airports soared to a record-breaking 1.02 million in 2012.
While Fargo’s Hector International Airport saw a record 364,727 passengers, the largest gains were reported in Minot and Williston.
Minot International Airport had 224,421 boardings, up 49 percent, and Williston’s Sloulin Field International Airport had 37,508 boardings, up 35 percent from 2011.
New carriers and added destinations fueled growth at all three airports.
Minot gained Allegiant flights to Phoenix in March and Frontier service to Denver in November.
Frontier also resumed nonstop service to Denver from Hector International Airport. Frontier operated in Fargo from 2008 to 2010, but service was suspended when the airline phased out the aircrafts used to serve regional airports such as Fargo.
Travel to and from Williston was made easier in November with the arrival of service to Minneapolis on Delta and to Denver on United. State Aeronautics Commissioner Larry Taborsky credited North Dakota’s economic prosperity for the growth.
“We saw an upward climb for the years before the Oil Patch, and then it just skyrocketed after we started hitting oil out there,” Taborsky said. “North Dakota beat the trend of the whole recession and then the oil was the icing on the cake.”
He acknowledged that the Oil Patch gets a lot of attention for the state’s success, but he pointed out that Fargo is still the leader in air travel.
Shawn Dobberstein, Hector’s executive director, credited the area’s strong business climate and the work done by organizations such as the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to commercial boardings, 5,022 passengers were reported to have boarded charter planes at Hector. These included North Dakota State University football charters, visiting football teams, casino charters to Laughlin and Wendover in Nevada, and private business charters. This is up from 4,644 in 2011.
While continued growth is in the hands of airlines and travelers, Dobberstein sees a number of good trends for 2013.
One such example is the arrival of American Airlines' nonstop service to Dallas from Hector set to begin Feb. 14.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501