ND, Minot airport passenger boardings up

File Photo The entrance of Minot’s airport terminal is viewed from inside. The airport had one of its busiest years in 2019.

Airline passenger boardings were up 9.45% in Minot in 2019, according to figures released Thursday by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

The increase in 2019 over the previous year reflected more passengers throughout the year, but particularly during the last quarter. October boardings were up 18.2%, November boardings up 10% and December boardings up 13%.

Statewide, it was the second busiest year on record for commercial airports, next to 2014, which occurred during the height of the state’s oil boom, the Aeronautics Commission reported. The Bismarck, Devils Lake and Fargo airports each posted their highest annual airline passenger count on record in calendar year 2019.

The eight commercial service airports finished 2019 with 1.19 million passenger boardings. It reflects growth of 108,452 passengers or a 10% increase from 2018 numbers. The Aeronautics Commission reported almost as many deplanements as boardings in the state for a grand total of nearly 2.38 million passengers last year. Seven of the eight commercial service airports in the state saw more passengers in 2019 than they did in 2018. The largest increase was in Williston, which saw boardings up 19.57%.

The Minot airport saw 165,988 boardings in 2019, the fifth highest behind peak years from 2012 to 2015. The high was 224,421 boardings in 2012. The 2019 total was up 14,330 passengers from 2018.

“We’re pleased to see that and we’re expecting further growth this year just looking at the seats that airlines are planning to put into our market,” said Rick Feltner, Minot airport director. “We’re up about 10% in the number of seats that are going to be available for sale by the airlines over 2019.”

If those seats fill at the current average of 80% to 85%, that’s between a 5% and 10% increase in total passenger numbers, he said. The increase in available seats in 2019 was a primary driver behind the increase in passenger numbers, he said. Those additional seats came both from increased size of aircraft and increased frequency of flights. United Airlines’ addition of another roundtrip flight to Denver for the summer was an example of the increase.

“When you look at every time the airlines added capacity over the last three years to Minot, we have continued to stay steady with load factor, which is, of course, the percentage of seats filled,” Feltner said. “There is a demand out there, and our flights go out full most of the time.”

The increased number of passengers throughout the state has allowed communities to attract and retain additional air service opportunities. Ten non-stop destinations, of which three are seasonal, are served from North Dakota.

“North Dakota’s airports play an important role in providing efficient transportation options for our businesses, residents and visitors,” Kyle Wanner, executive director of the Aeronautics Commission, said in a news release. “2019 was a monumental year for North Dakota’s aviation sector as our state saw the opening of the new Williston Basin International Airport and posted similar passenger numbers to what the state saw during the height of the recent oil boom. Sound investments in airport infrastructure throughout North Dakota has resulted in increased air transportation opportunities and benefits for our communities.”