Passenger traffic in November at Minot International Airport was up 88 percent from a year ago, according to airport statistics showing planes leaving Minot at an average of 82 percent full.
"This is just proof that a community and a region can come together and support what they have. It's exciting to see," said Andrew Solsvig, airport director.
Allegiant Airlines, claiming 14 percent of the Minot market, ran 93.5 percent full in its twice weekly flights in November. Delta Airlines, with five flights a day to Minneapolis, and United Airlines, with two flights a day to Denver, averaged 75.5 to 79 percent full.
Alexander D’Ambrosio of Minot picks up his ticket at a kiosk before boarding a flight from the Minot airport Dec. 6.
The parking lot at Minot International Airport is full of cars Dec. 6.
This graph provided by Minot International Airport shows how passenger numbers have tracked over the past three years.
"If you build it, they will come. This is proof," Solsvig said. "What's really important to point out is the community embraced the flights. That's what is key to this success."
If the planes remain as full as they have been, he said, the airlines will keep the flights and may add more. So far for the year, planes have averaged about 72 percent full.
Oil activity in the region and Canadian traffic have increased passenger numbers, although there are no specific statistics to indicate how large a role they are playing, Solsvig said.
Passengers must arrive early for check in
Passengers flying Allegiant Airlines are advised to arrive at the airport two hours before flight time to ensure adequate time for clearing security.
Andrew Solsvig, airport director, recommends people arrive 1-1/2 hours ahead of flight time for Delta and United, but additional time is needed for Allegiant because of the number of passengers who must be checked in. To stay on schedule, airlines must close boarding services a half-hour before a flight is scheduled to leave. Passengers not checked in by that time won't be boarded.
There were 20,144 passengers using the airport in November, which was split close to half between people departing and arriving.
The years 1992 and 1993 were peak years for flights in Minot so the new numbers aren't records. But they are up from recent years. The 171,335 total passengers through November compares with 150,838 in all of 2008 and 144,204 in 2009.
Solsvig said the increased activity is felt not only by the airlines but by the rental car companies, concessions and the airport itself.
The airport terminal has been able to handle the flow of people, although if a flight delay causes any overlap between airlines, space is crowded and there's standing room only, he said.
"Building-wise, we are doing OK, but we are looking at how soon it will be before we need to expand," Solsvig said.
Airport officials are making plans to increase the parking area next summer. Over Thanksgiving, the lot was completely full. Some people arriving for a flight weren't able to park until their plane came in and incoming passengers took their vehicles out of the lot, Solsvig said. Overall, for November, the lot averaged 71 percent full and parking revenue was up nearly 144 percent.
Airport officials are considering paving an area on the east side of the lot that already is used for overflow parking. It can handle up to 50 vehicles.
Solsvig said one option for expanding airport parking is to use an area on the east side of the entrance road. Other options may be considered as well before a decision is made next March.
Airport employee parking previously was moved from the west side of the terminal to the east side to free up space for the rental car companies and enable the companies to remove rental vehicles being parking in the pay lot.
"What we are seeing now is the car rental companies are bursting at the seams and are wanting to expand even their lot," Solsvig said.
Since February, rentals have been up at least 25 percent each month from the corresponding month in 2009. Monthly car rentals were up 51 percent in August, 76 percent in September and 54 percent in October from 2009.
Airport operations have been busier in general. Total flights, including general aviation, have totaled 44,515 through November, compared to 38,497 flights for all of 2009.