With three months remaining until the Williston Basin International Airport is scheduled to begin service, airline officials say they are currently in talks to attract additional air carriers to the area.
A release from the Williston Economic Development office on Friday, Aug. 2 states that Airport Director Anthony Dudas has met with several potential service providers, in the hopes of attracting new air carriers to provide “improved leisure and business opportunities.” The release said that as of now, no commitments have been made from any providers, but that Salt Lake City, Houston, Las Vegas and Phoenix are all possible new routes that have been discussed.
The release states that air service development consultant Landrum and Brown provided a recent statistic that Williston currently has the third highest fares in the nation. Additional air carriers could potentially bring those costs down, Dudas commented.
“Ticket prices are generally a direct result of the local economy and demand,” he said in the release. “So, with where we are, it is a challenge to bring the high prices down. We are hoping with more aircraft, larger aircraft and additional airlines, prices will go down.”
In a further effort to provide lower-cost airfare to the community and to incentivize potential future carriers, the city of Williston is seeking a Small Community Air Service Development Grant. The release stated that the grant was submitted on July 15 and will provide resources to fund a Minimum Revenue Guarantee for a future airline. If approved, the release said, the grant could significantly increase the chance of the airport gaining a new service provider.
“It is a challenge to educate the public on what is going on behind the scenes,” Dudas explained. “The city of Williston and the airport are working diligently to get those additional airlines that everyone, including the airport, wants. We are trying to make it so air carriers have an incentive to come to Williston and one way of doing that is by providing all of the upfront costs associated with coming to a new airport.”
Existing carriers United and Delta have already committed to continuing their service from Sloulin Field to Williston Basin, with each carrier replacing one 50-seat aircraft.
Delta Airlines will be bringing in a larger 70-seat aircraft, and United Airlines will upgrade to a 76-seat craft. Along with the additional space, both aircrafts will also feature a first-class section.
The airport is scheduled to begin service on Oct. 10.