Aviation workforce shortages create challenge for recovery

Airline staff shortages and the slow return of business and government travel are contributing to a stalled pandemic recovery for North Dakota airports, according to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted almost 75,000 airline passenger boardings during September, a 90% increase from September 2020 but still 16% below September 2019’s pre-pandemic airline boarding counts.

Over the past four months, North Dakota’s airports have been able to sustain passenger demand between 15% – 20% below the 2019 pre-pandemic levels, the aeronautics commission reports. While the numbers have been encouraging, additional growth has been stymied as airlines have cited an inability to add additional flights due to staff shortages and lack of a strong recovery in business and government travel due to persisting COVID-19 concerns. North Dakota also has been experiencing challenges associated with travel restrictions at the Canadian border, which may ease somewhat with U.S. government’s decision to allow non-essential travel for vaccinated Canadians, beginning in early November.

Minot recorded 10,094 passengers in September, up from 6,821 in September 2020 but still 19% behind 2019. For 2021 to date, Minot has seen 89,057 boardings, up 44% from the same period a year ago.

The state’s eight commercial airports boarded 629,060 passengers so far this year, up 45% from a year ago.

“Holiday travel is right around the corner and we hope to see the aviation industry rise to the challenge and ensure an appropriate workforce is available to accommodate the needs and air service demands of the flying public,” said Kyle Wanner, executive director of the aeronautics commission. “Aviation workforce shortages also create opportunities and provides encouragement for our youth to consider a career in the aviation sector. Pilots, aircraft mechanics, and unmanned aircraft operators are just a few of the exciting career options that are projected to continue to be in high demand.”


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