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Expanded air service is good news for N.D.

By Staff | Feb 19, 2010

For years, most air travelers in North Dakota had to go east to go west, and that was just the way it was going to be in order to have jet service in the state.

North Dakota simply didn’t have the population to attract a number of different commercial airlines to offer flights east and west while serving four airports – Minot, Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the airport.

The airline industry changed. Airline mergers and the growth of smaller airlines specializing in offering flights to only a handful of markets helped to open up more air service in North Dakota.

No longer was Northwest Airlines the only game in town. Now travelers have more choices and reasonable airfares, and not surprisingly more people are flying. Boardings continue to reach record highs at the state’s airports, and part of the increases are thanks to our northern neighbors coming down to N.D. cities to take advantage of the lower air fares to such places as Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The merger of Northwest and Delta airlines, which was anticipated to be a positive for the state, has turned out that way with westbound flights to Delta’s hub in Salt Lake City.

What also helped was the economy, specifically the state’s economy. Increased oil activity in the western part of the state and job growth in Fargo and Bismarck warranted more air service to those communities.

Most recently, it was announced air service linking Minot to Salt Lake City and Denver will be provided.

Ten years ago only Fargo and Bismarck could provide commercial air service to locations other than Minneapolis.

Today, all four of the state’s major airports provide service both east and west.

It’s a significant step for the state of North Dakota and now the question is can we keep it?

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