FARGO – Efforts to get a direct flight from here to Seattle are getting a $500,000 boost from the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Transportation grant would guarantee any airline offering the service would not lose money in the first year, and provide marketing support, Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of Hector International Airport, said Tuesday.
Seattle is an important destination because there are strong business and family ties between the Pacific Northwest and the Fargo area, he said, citing Microsoft's Fargo campus. Seattle is also a hub with connections to other West Coast cities, Alaska, Hawaii and the Asia Pacific, he said.
Hector International has been working with carriers such as Alaska Airlines and the grant would allow them to have a serious discussion, said Dobberstein, who expected it to take some time to bear fruit.
The grant will be matched with $300,000 from the airport, the local Economic Development Corp. and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Past grants have helped the Fargo airport get direct flights to Dallas and Salt Lake City, which have proved popular, Dobberstein said. "We've had good success, and I think the DOT sees that."
American Airlines began offering Dallas flights in February 2013 after the airport received a $750,000 grant and matched it with $300,000 from local sources. Delta Air Lines began offering Salt Lake City flights in June 2006 after the airport received a $675,000 grant and matched it with $200,000. Dobberstein said Delta has suspended the flights because of issues not related to the airport.
Members of the state's congressional delegation announced the latest grant Tuesday, highlighting the importance of better connections to the western United States.
Only two airlines now provide direct flights west from Hector International and both are limited. United provides flights to Denver and Allegiant provides flights to Phoenix and Las Vegas, but only a couple of times a week.
Dobberstein said if Hector International fails to get an airline interested in Seattle service, it would focus on getting more-frequent flights to Atlanta, now provided by Delta mostly during the holiday season.