Even through a pandemic, flights still connect families for the holidays

Shawn Dobberstein, the executive director for Fargo's Municipal Airport Authority, hopes to see pre-pandemic numbers of travelers at Hector International Airport within the next year.

Jason and Brittany Davis hug their son Kyler after he gets off his flight home on Thursday, Dec. 24. Tanner Robinson / WDAY

FARGO — As people at Hector International Airport checked in for their Christmas Eve flights and took their baggage through airport security, staff members said they never thought they'd get to see this steady traffic during the holiday season, considering where they were nine months ago when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in North Dakota.

"There's a significant appetite of the traveling public to go out and about and travel, so those that have had COVID and have recovered, they want to get out and travel and do those things," said Shawn Dobberstein, the executive director of the Municipal Airport Authority.

According to Dobberstein, Hector's traffic was down at least 60% in October, but he said some airports saw 70% to 80% drops in traffic.

The pandemic has left families like Jason Davis and his wife Brittany itching to see family members who are far from home, including their son Kyler, who goes to high school in Virginia.

"(The pandemic) really put some strain on our abilities to visit," Jason Davis said. "It's still not often enough."


A passenger speaks with a Transportation Security Administration agent while checking in for her flight. Tanner Robinson / WDAY

As friends and other families gradually got off their planes, the Davises had to be patient for another half hour.

"I just feel blessed that we'll still be able to see (Kyler), have flights come in and out and get our family together," Brittany Davis said.

Close to 11:30 a.m., Kyler's flight arrived from Chicago, and the family reunion four months in the making could finally take place.

"It feels nice," said Kyler Davis when he landed. "There's a time where we thought I might not be able to come, but I'm glad I made it."

With many families taking on an uncertain Christmas this year, they all still hope to have the happiest of holidays, and that the skies stay clear.

"We're just taking it day by day and trying to make the most of it," Jason Davis said.


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Tanner Robinson is a producer for First News on WDAY-TV.
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