The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission reported that while 2021 got off to a promising start, airline boardings are still significantly down from the previous year.
The state’s eight commercial service airports posted a total of 42,238 airline passenger boardings for January, a 57 percent decline in passengers from the same month last year, which was still pre-pandemic.
“The negative impacts that COVID-19 has had on airline passenger demand is continuing into 2021.” stated Kyle Wanner, Executive Director of the NDAC. “It is however, encouraging to see COVID-19 cases in North Dakota and throughout the country trending lower which can have a direct impact on an individual’s decision to travel. We also remain optimistic that further passenger growth will occur as Spring approaches and penned up travel demand may help to jumpstart the recovery.”
At Williston Basin International Airport, Director Anthony Dudas told the Williston Herald that numbers are steadily beginning to increase, especially as COVID numbers in the region continue to fall. XWA reported 2,008 boardings for January 2021, a drop from the 6,714 reported in 2020. Those numbers are again pre-pandemic, and Dudas is cautiously hopeful that they will continue to increase into the spring and summer months.
“We’re seeing pretty solid passenger numbers on our two flights per day that United is operating to Denver,” Dudas explained. “We’re filling those planes more than 70 percent full each day, which is really fantastic considering what many other airports and airlines are seeing across the country.”
Dudas added that with that information, XWA hopes to see an increase in service from United Airlines in the coming months. Dudas added that Delta Airlines, who suspended service in 2020 due to the pandemic, has not announced any plans to resume operations as of yet.
“We’re continuing conversations with them, and we hope to have more information at some point in the future.” He advised.
Even as vaccinations in the state increase and COVID numbers fall, Dudas said there is still a significant impact on the airline industry due to virus numbers in other locations. With increased vaccinations across the country, Dudas added that the hope is that travel can begin to resume regularly once again.
“Air travel across the country is still down more than 50 percent and many days more than 60 percent than what is was pre-COVID,” he explained. “There’s definitely a reservation in general in my opinion, of people willing or able to travel, but I’m optimistic that we’re going to see more growth as we move in to the spring.”