Minot boardings up

North Dakota airports accommodate more than a million passengers in 2018

File Photo Activity at Minot’s airport terminal picked up last year with 151,658 passenger boardings.

Airline boardings at Minot International Airport were up 5.9 percent in 2018, or nearly 8,500 more passengers, according to year-end figures from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

The commission reported North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports finished calendar year 2018 with a statewide total of 1,083,117 passenger boardings. It reflects growth of 52,478 passengers, or a 5 percent increase, from 2017 numbers. The Bismarck and Devils Lake airports posted their highest annual airline passenger count on record in 2018.

In 2018, the airports also saw 1,081,283 passenger deplanements for a grand total of 2,164,400 passengers who traveled through the commercial service terminal buildings of North Dakota over the past year.

Minot was one of six commercial service airports in the state that saw more passengers this past year than they did in 2017.

Rick Feltner, Minot airport director, said boardings were up pretty consistently throughout the year. The load factors – the percentage of seats that are filled on a flight – have been good as well, he said.

File photo A plane takes off from Minot International Airport.

“The more customers you have that are coming out and flying, the better the ancillary businesses do as well. And we’re seeing that too. We’re seeing all those other areas of business being really favorable too,” Feltner said of the restaurant, parking and rental car services.

Minot boardings soared from 90,823 in 2010 to 150,450 in 2011 before peaking at 224,421 in 2012. Boardings began a gradual decline in 2015 after oil activity slowed. Feltner said the latest numbers show a stabilization in that decline. The 151,658 boardings in 2018 remains slightly behind but near 2016 numbers.

“The work in the Bakken is a lot less labor intensive, and we’re seeing a lot less in terms of actual oil boom traffic. I think we’re seeing more from the business side of the energy sector as far as administrators and people that work in the regional headquarters here in the area,” Feltner said. “The economy in general in this area is getting better and more people are flying. So that means more business travelers are coming and going out of Minot, and it also means more leisure travelers are are using the airport as well. That’s obviously something that we want to see, and I’m somewhat optimistic that we’ll see similar growth in 2019 as well.”

He said there are signs that airlines may add seats this year and the city continues to work to encourage new destinations and attract new carriers.

The aeronautics commission stated increased number of passengers throughout the state has allowed communities to attract and retain additional air service opportunities. Nine non-stop destinations (of which two are seasonal) exist. The state averages about 55 airline flight departures per day with an estimated 3,800 available daily seats.

The top destination airline passenger markets in 2018 for North Dakota travelers were Phoenix/Mesa, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Orlando/Sanford in Florida, Washington, D.C-Maryland, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Houston.

“The increased utilization of aviation transportation within North Dakota shows that our airports continue to play an important role in providing efficient transportation options for our residents and visitors,” stated Kyle Wanner, executive director of aeronautics commission in a news release. “North Dakota’s businesses compete within a global economy and the ability to connect our communities to the rest of the world allows our state to remain competitive. As efforts to diversify and grow North Dakota’s economy moves forward, the benefits that aviation transportation provides will continue to play a significant role.”