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The first commercial flight into The Williston Basin International Airport comes in for landing in this file 2019 photo. 

The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission reported that North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted a total of 39,451 passenger boardings during the month of September.

This amounts to a 44 percent retention rate of the passengers that the state experienced during the same month last year and is the highest monthly retention rate that the North Dakota has experienced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is also the first month since April that the state experienced a lower passenger volume than the previous month as there were 4,000 fewer passengers in September than in August.

Despite steadily increasing passenger boardings, large airports in cities such as Bismarck, Grand Forks, Fargo and Minot reported about half of the passengers in September 2020 year over year.

“September is seasonally one of our slowest months for air travel in the state of North Dakota and so, as expected, we experienced a small dip in passenger volume from August” Executive Director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission Kyle Wanner said. “Our commercial service airports have now been successfully operating during the COVID-19 pandemic for seven months and during that time they have worked hard to ensure that a safe environment exists for the traveling public. Since air transportation is also one of the safest modes of transportation, it is critical that it continues to remain a viable option for our travelers.”

At Williston Basin International Airport, boardings fell slightly from August, dipping from 1,357 in August to 1,340 passengers for September. Year-to-date numbers show Williston at 25,273 enplanements for 2020 versus 66,208 for 2019. Service at XWA has been reduced due to COVID-19, contributing to this year’s lower numbers.

“Passenger numbers at XWA recovered modestly from our low in April,” XWA Airport Director Anthony Dudas told the Williston Herald. “Our airline partners had reduced our scheduled flights to one per day, from our original five scheduled departures, in the months of July, August, and September. This has resulted in maintaining a very similar passenger count each month.”

Service began picking up at the airport in October, which Dudas said should help XWA’s numbers increase in the final month of the year.

“On October 1st, United Airlines resumed a second daily departure, which added additional seats available and better scheduling options for travelers,” Dudas said. “With this increase in flights, we anticipate slight passenger growth to resume in the month of October and through the end of 2020.”

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