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An untimely flight: Dickinson airport authority looks ahead following loss of Delta service

The recent departure of Delta Air Lines service from the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport hung in the air at the regular Dickinson Airport Authority commission meeting Thursday evening.

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The Dickinson Airport Authority Commission discusses the future Thursday at Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport. (Press Photo by Andrew Wernette)

The recent departure of Delta Air Lines service from the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport hung in the air at the regular Dickinson Airport Authority commission meeting Thursday evening.

Delta announced in October that it would suspend its twice-daily flights between Dickinson and Minneapolis on Dec. 1, citing a lack of profitability and demand. The airline reportedly averaged around 60 percent load capacity in August and September.

United Airlines is now the sole airline servicing the airport. It has twice-daily flights to Denver International Airport.

Dickinson airport manager Kelly Braun said Delta representatives have been packing their equipment out of the airport in recent days.

“We should see all of their stuff out of the building before the end of this month,” he said.

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In terms of coping with the gap left by the airline, Braun said it was “a matter of logistics.”

Complicating things is the recent departure of an operations staff member, he said. With the loss of revenue from Delta, Braun said he and other operational staff are pondering how fast they want to fill that position.

All of this will have an impact on next year’s budget, he said, which the commission will discuss in January.

“We’ve got to clamp down on expenditures unless they’re emergency in nature,” he said.

In the meantime, Braun said the airport is looking at trying to add more flights with United. He said the airport is using the services of Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting agency based in Colorado, to acquire passenger travel data on those who pass through the airport’s gates.

“That can give us a good picture of where folks are going in the country,” he said.

With this, Braun said the airport hopes to approach United with something that could convince them to increase their service.

Another issue weighing on the airport is a slump in boarding numbers. About 37,000 boardings were recorded through October this year, which is around a 24 percent decrease to last year’s roughly 48,000 boardings over the same period.

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“We’ll probably finish out the year (at) 40-some thousand,” Braun said.

He predicted that yearly boardings would remain between 30,000 and 35,000 in the future until the local oil industry experiences an uptick, to which commission secretary Craig Steve agreed.

“You bring more opportunity, there’s going to be more boardings,” said Steve, who owns All American Travel in Dickinson.

Braun said it was worth noting that airlines are trending toward increasing the capacity of their aircraft so more people can be moved with fewer flights. If this becomes true for Dickinson, he said more flights from the airport may not be necessary.

“The direction that we’re moving is to accommodate that,” Braun said.

Braun said that, for Dickinson’s size, it was impressive that the airport held commercial service that connected to two different hubs in the country.

“It’s unfortunate that we lost that, but it was nice for a while,” he said.

Moving forward, Braun said they could perhaps see it again in the future.

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Braun said one of the points he expected Boyd Group to relate next month is a trend of similar pullouts happening at other regional airports on the eastern side of the country. In these cases, he said some areas are in “real danger” of losing air transportation service.

“We’re fortunate we’re not in that situation here,” he added.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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