North Dakota’s air travel numbers are declining, and a lack of airline seats is a factor, according to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.
North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted 89,865 airline passenger boardings during July, a decrease of 3,057 passengers or 3.3% from July 2021. The decline follows a national trend in which passenger growth during the year has leveled off at about 15% below that before 2019 -The number of passengers in the pandemic. This is largely the result of limited seat capacity and flight departures, which remain below pre-pandemic levels, the commission reported.
About 111,039 airline seats were available for purchase in North Dakota during July. That’s a 16% drop, or about 20,858 fewer seats, than were available in July 2019, according to US Department of Transportation numbers.
“Airlines continue to communicate difficulties that prevent them from adding additional seat capacity to the system.” said Kyle Wanner, executive director of the ND Aeronautics Commission. “Passenger growth cannot happen when we do not have additional flights or seats to accommodate that growth. We hope to see additional capacity added back to the North Dakota system as the airline industry continues to re-prioritize its fleet utilization and works to improve its staffing issues.”
Passenger demand remains elevated as many flights departing or returning to North Dakota are full or nearly full with the aircraft’s average load factor at about 80%, the commission stated. The Commission recommends that passengers plan ahead and purchase tickets several weeks in advance of any planned travel to ensure accommodation.
Passenger departures at Minot International Airport in July totaled 11,303, down from 13,283 in July 2021, a decrease of 14.9%. July boardings fell 29% from 2019.
Year-over-year airport arrivals of 78,360 through July in Minot are up 15.5% from a year ago, though down 17.6% from 2019. All eight of North Dakota’s commercial service airports are seeing year-over-year growth days during 2021. Williston saw a 60.7% increase, while Dickinson is up 44.56% and Grand Forks is up 43.78%.