North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted almost 75,000 airline passenger boardings during the month of September 2021. This is a 90% increase from September 2020 but is still 16% below September 2019’s pre-pandemic airline boarding counts.
Over the last four consecutive months, North Dakota’s airports have been able to sustain passenger demand between 15% – 20% below the 2019 pre-pandemic levels. This is an encouraging sign; however, known challenges exist within the industry that have so far prevented a full recovery in passenger numbers. Airlines have cited an inability to add additional flights due to staff shortages and the industry has still not yet seen a strong recovery in business and government travel due to persisting COVID-19 concerns.
North Dakota also experiences challenges associated with travel restrictions at the Canadian border which impedes the ability for airline passenger growth to occur from the travel of Canadian citizens. The announcement that the Canadian border will re-open to non-essential travel in early November is a step in the right direction to help encourage economic growth within the state’s tourism and travel industry.
“Holiday travel is right around the corner, and we hope to see the aviation industry rise to the challenge and ensure an appropriate workforce is available to accommodate the needs and air service demands of the flying public,” stated Kyle Wanner, Executive Director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission. “Aviation workforce shortages also create opportunities and provides encouragement for our youth to consider a career in the aviation sector. Pilots, aircraft mechanics, and unmanned aircraft operators are just a few of the exciting career options that are projected to continue to be in high demand. “