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Fargo airport in talks for direct flights to Seattle

Hector International Airport. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO – Direct flights between here and Seattle are under discussion between an unnamed carrier and local airport and economic development authorities, an official involved said Monday.

The flights could begin as early as the first or second quarter of 2016 if negotiations are fruitful, Jim Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Development Corp., told the Cass County Commission.

He said he expects a decision to be made sometime this quarter.

Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of the Fargo Airport Authority, said adding direct, daily flights to Seattle has been a goal for nearly 15 years since Great Plains Software, based here, was acquired by Microsoft Corp., based in the Seattle area.

“That’s been on my list a long time,” he said. The two airlines most active in Seattle are Delta and Alaska Airlines, which is based in Seattle, he said.

Microsoft has been an important part of the discussion, Gartin said. The company is a top employer in the area with close to 900 employees.

An average of 30 people fly daily to and from Seattle out of Hector International Airport, Dobberstein said. “That bodes pretty well for one of those mid-sized regional jets.”

Nonstop service, once added, stimulates more travel to and from that destination, he said. Seattle is a West Coast stopping-off point that connects air travelers to other destinations, including Alaska, Hawaii and Asia, he said. “It’s a good connecting hub.”

Passengers now flying to Seattle must connect in Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City, or less common, Dallas and Chicago.

Delta Air Lines has given notice that, beginning in December, it will suspend service to Salt Lake City, Dobberstein said. The carrier, facing a pilot shortage that is poised to become more severe, is beefing up its Seattle hub, he said.

The Airport Authority is working to maintain normal service to Atlanta, he said, which includes Saturday-only service throughout most of the year and daily service from mid-December to early January.