The United States Department of Transportation finalized its decision to grant an exemption to allow Delta Air Lines to suspend service to Williston.
Delta was seeking an exception under the CARES Act to suspend their already limited service to Williston Basin International Airport. Flights were reduced due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The airport and City were awaiting word regarding the decision, which was finalized on June 3.
“This decision is disheartening and provides an additional challenge as our community works to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Airport Director Anthony Dudas told the Williston Herald. “This suspension is anticipated to be temporary, and we expect Delta to resume service at XWA when economic factors accommodate profitable flight operations. We are working diligently with our air carrier partners to ensure we are providing timely and accurate regional economic information so they are able to augment air service as travel demand continues to increase. Travelers who have flights with Delta out of XWA will be contacted by Delta if their travel is affected by this service change.”
Williston City Administrator David Tuan shared Dudas’ sentiments, hoping the suspension would be short term.
“While the loss of service from Delta is disappointing, we remain optimistic that this suspension of service will be short lived as we hope for a swift recovery to the regional economy,” he stated. “In the meantime, we’re grateful for the support and endorsement from state and federal elected officials and for the extended service from United Airlines. We ask any air travelers to continue to watch for updates from Delta and XWA.”
The City of Williston released the following statement on June 4 regarding the USDOT’s decision.
Under the CARES Act, Delta was obligated to provide one flight per day, three days per week between XWA and MSP. The City of Williston anticipates Delta’s suspension of service will take place the first week of July.
Delta currently operates once daily service from the Williston Basin International Airport to Minneapolis, MN. The USDOT’s waiver will allow Delta to suspend service on this route until September 30, 2020. At that time, CARES Act funding will cease to air carriers and they will no longer be obligated to provide air service to any airport in the United States.
The city received notification of Delta’s request on May 22, 2020. The City submitted a formal objection to this notification on May 28, 2020. Letters of support for the city’s position were also provided by Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, Congressman Kelly Armstrong, Governor Burgum, and North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness.
The USDOT provided the following response to the city’s objection:
The Department recognizes the importance of air service to North Dakota and to the energy sector. However, we do not find a basis in the comments to modify our tentative findings with regards to XWA. The CARES Act requires the Department to balance the needs of communities to maintain at least minimal connections to the national air transportation system with the needs of carriers to conserve resources prior to the expiration of the Service Obligations. XWA will continue to be served by United, which is currently providing service in excess of its minimum service obligations at XWA. This decision does not prevent Delta, or any other carrier, from providing service to XWA as conditions improve and demand returns.
The city will continue to work with Delta and United Airlines to ensure important regional economic factors are communicated with their planning and scheduling staff in order to make timely decisions on changes in air service for our community.”