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Jetting in and out of Dickinson: Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport receives $50K from city for assessment

Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport is pursuing jet service from a major airline and is trying to prepare as much as possible before a partnership is reached.

Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport is preparing to offer jet service, even though there has been no official agreement with an airline.

"The Airport Authority is working hard to move forward," TRRA Manager Matthew Remynse said, adding that it is trying to get everything in place before an agreement is set so it can hit the ground running should an announcement be made.

Jet service would mean smoother, quicker flights, possibly to more locations, depending on the airline's wishes, he said.

The flight to Denver would take about an hour and a half on the jet versus 30 to 45 minutes longer on the turbo prop planes, Remynse said.

At Monday's Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall, Remynse asked the commission for $50,000 should an announcement be made so the airport can do an environmental assessment for jet service and be up and running as soon as possible.

The money will not be spent if TRRA does not get jet service.

"This would be a tremendous economic development boost," Commission President Dennis Johnson said Monday.

The commission unanimously agreed to pay for the study out of the 2013 budget, using the hospitality tax.

The longevity of the runway may be compromised with the addition of jet service because the planes are heavier than the propeller planes that Great Lakes is flying.

"The current airport's runway will handle jet traffic, the length is good enough," he said. "Instead of runway having a 20-year lifespan and lasting until 2019 it's probably only going to last until -- well, we don't know. It could last until 2016, '17, it could last the full 20 years."

TRRA should be able to support jet service with adjustments to the campus, Remynse said. The terminal holds 50 passengers, but adding an airline or two could up that to 120 passengers at a time.

Baggage handling will also have to be updated for arrivals and departures, he said. The airport handles 15 to 20 bags at a time, but that could increase to as many as 100 bags if airlines have similar flight schedules.

TRRA is looking at getting temporary modular terminals similar to modular classrooms to hold ticket counters and other services each airline would need.

It's unpredictable what may happen to fares should Dickinson get another airline or two, Remynse said.

A Dickinson to Denver trip booked Thursday afternoon leaving Jan. 18 and returning Jan. 21 was quoted at $711 through Great Lakes.

Flying Williston

Sloulin Field International Airport in Williston expanded to jet service in November, adding United on the fourth and Delta on the 12th, while retaining its service from Great Lakes, Airport Manager Steven Kjergaard said.

"It's been really good," he said. "The load factors for actually all three airlines are above 80 percent if not completely full."

Since adding two airlines, fares haven't changed much, Kjergaard said, adding the average round-trip flight to the Twin Cities is $300 to $400 and travelers are spending $350 to $450 to get to Denver.

The fares are fairly consistent, he said, but tend to get more expensive the closer to departure date.

There have been some struggles with parking there, but a new parking lot should be complete by summer, Kjergaard said.

The airport is looking to get bigger, but because of growth in Williston, Sloulin Field is trapped and cannot expand, Kjergaard said. It may be moving, depending on the results of a site selection study.

"That still leaves a possibility of remaining in our current location," he said. "Realistically, relocation looks like the best option because we wouldn't have to close the airport for over a year."

Oil Patch airports have a unique position when it comes to gaining flight service, Kjergaard said.

"A lot of airports now in order to get an air carrier in have to do some major subsidies to the airline to get them to fly an additional carrier," he said. "We really aren't having to do that. ... The airlines just want to come here."

The Airport Authority Board is meeting at 7 a.m. today at City Hall to discuss possible jet service bids in an attempt to be as prepared as possible, Remynse said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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