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Now boarding: Despite a booming airline business, Dickinson losing customers to Bismarck

­Dickinson's Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport may be losing customers to the Bismarck Airport, but business is still booming, officials said.

"For 15 to 16 months, we averaged a 70 percent increase," said Matthew Remynse, Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport manager. "There are so many people flying out that they have to go to Bismarck or another airport."

A 2010 leakage report showed that Dickinson lost 54 percent of its passengers to Bismarck, Remynse said. Dickinson captured 34 percent of the city's market, and it may do another study in conjunction with its master plan, he added.

The airports in western North Dakota have become increasingly busy due to an oil boom, Bismarck Airport manager Greg Haug said. The capital city's passenger numbers were up 30 percent in May compared to last year.

Dickinson saw a record 80 percent increase in March, Remynse said, and he expects the trend to continue.

Dickinson connects to Denver through Great Lakes Airlines. Bismarck utilizes Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines to the same destination, offering more choices and availability.

Prices for flights out of Dickinson tend to stay the same compared to Bismarck's. Great Lakes' prices are around $776 for a round trip to Denver while tickets from Bismarck cost between $279 to more than $1,000, depending on dates and airlines. Passengers that plan further out may get a less expensive ride.

Both managers said prices have gone up for tickets, but that is attributed to fuel, Haug said.

"Fuel is one of the largest expenses (airlines) have," he said. "When there is a marked increase in fuel cost, the airlines can't just suck it up."

But for Shirley Rains, who lives south of Atlanta, price isn't everything when flying.

"I prefer saving time," she said. "It would be cheaper for me to fly to Bismarck. However, then I have to rent a car and then drive 100 miles. I prefer to spend less time on the road and more time in Dickinson."

Remynse added there may be hidden costs in Bismarck, such as parking and baggage fees. Dickinson has free parking while Bismarck charges $8 per day. Great Lakes doesn't charge a baggage fee as long as it is flying to another Great Lakes destination.

Choosing a flight depends on the customer's needs, Haug said. One person may want to save money. The next may want to save time or doesn't have time to travel to Bismarck to catch a flight.

"As time has gone on, people, I think, when they make air travel decisions, they take a look at the options that are available to them," he said. "Each person has motives and limitations."

Travelers have more options when flying, Haug said. They can go through groups, online travel sites and travel agents to get the best deal.

Flyers should plan ahead for trips as much as possible and book early to get the best prices, Remynse said.