Pandemic cuts air travel at North Dakota commercial airports in half

January 19, 2021

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic cut the number of passengers using North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports in half last year.

The airports in Bismarck, Minot, Williston, Dickinson, Grand Forks, Fargo, Devils Lake and Jamestown finished 2020 with a total of 572,093 airline passenger boardings. The state Aeronautics Commission says that’s a 52% drop from the previous year and the lowest passenger count since 2003.

After COVID-19 arrived in North Dakota in March, passenger numbers in April plummeted by 95%, to the lowest monthly count since record keeping began 40 years ago, the Bismarck Tribune reported. But, since then, boardings have been on the upward swing and last month were 55% below the December 2019 level.

The commission says increased recent demand has encouraged airlines to begin slowly adding back flights and seat capacity. The state’s airports still provide nonstop flights to 10 destinations, three of them seasonal.

“Our airports never closed and they quickly worked to implement recommended mitigations to help ensure that a safe environment exists for those who need to travel. They were also able to accommodate emergency-related personnel and products to efficiently enter and depart our state,” Aeronautics Commissioner Kyle Wanner said. “As we look forward to 2021, I remain optimistic that airline passenger numbers will continue their current positive trend towards recovery.”

The Federal Aviation Administration last year awarded more than $85 million in aid to 53 North Dakota airports through the federal CARES Act economic rescue package.