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North Dakota airports surpass pre-pandemic milestone with 1 million boardings

The eight commercial service airports in North Dakota all boarded more passengers in 2022 than they did the year prior.

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Travelers check in at Hector International Airport in Fargo on June 30, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — With the darkest periods of the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror, travelers in North Dakota have shown they are ready to take to the skies once again.

That is according to new data from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission released Thursday, Jan. 19.

The state's commercial service airports saw a total of 1,028,159 flyers pass through their doors, a 16% increase from 2021's figure, a press release from the commission stated. All eight airports saw their numbers increase from 2021 to 2022.

The 1 million passenger mark is a milestone not hit since 2019, the year prior to the pandemic.

Fargo's Hector International Airport posted the greatest numeric increase in boardings, increasing that figure by 56,340 from 2021's mark. Williston Basin International Airport had the greatest percentage increase, increasing boardings by roughly 43%.

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Bismarck Municipal Airport posted the second-largest change in boardings, with an increase of 28,332 from 2021 to 2022. Boardings at Grand Forks International Airport rose by 20,706 during that time period.

Further, the airports had 1,023,816 passenger deplanements in 2022, meaning over 2 million passengers used the state's terminals in the past year.

The onset of the pandemic in March of 2020 swiftly impacted the passenger airline industry. Passenger demand was cut in half that year, though the recovery has been "remarkable," the commission said.

Still, 2022 came with its own set of problems.

November and December snowstorms resulted in nationwide delays and cancellations for passengers. Those headaches were particularly felt in the state's smaller airports, as airports in Devils Lake, Dickinson, Jamestown and Minot saw December boardings fall year-over-year.

Airlines are also strapped for employees, headlined by a shortage of pilots, according to the commission. In addition to pilots, demand for aircraft mechanics and unmanned aircraft operators is "projected to continue to be in high demand."

“This past year was one of significant challenges for the aviation industry as it worked to accommodate a large recovery in passenger demand while simultaneously experiencing significant workforce shortages,” Kyle Wanner, executive director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, said in the press release. “Amongst these challenges, North Dakota’s airline passenger demand is within reach of a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels. The success of this recovery showcases the resiliency of our state as well as the importance and heightened standard of living that air service opportunities provide to our citizens.”

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Thomas Evanella is a reporter for The Forum. He's worked for The Forum for over three years, primarily reporting on business news. He's also the host of the InForum Business Beat podcast, which can be streamed at InForum.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Reach him at tevanella@forumcomm.com or by calling 701-241-5518. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella.
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