Currently viewing the category: "Airline Boardings"

Probably only four comments to make concerning this months airline boardings:
First, Jamestown and Devils Lake are again getting airline service, and this is the first time that all of the eight commercial airports in North Dakota have jet service. Does that make a difference? Well, the destination may have something to do with it, but look at the numbers. For June 2014 compared to June 2013 Devils Lake increased nearly 22 percent, and Jamestown over 53 percent.
Second, the increase in the oil patch is still substantial. A lot of it may be secondary spending coming from the growth. Things like new retail coming in, or hotels, etc. Whatever, Dickinson, the hot spot in exploration, is up 153 percent for the year. Williston, the mature boomtown is only up 25 percent.
Third, and most surprising, and probably disappointing, Grand Forks is down nearly 10 percent for the month, and that is enough to make them down slightly for the year to date comparison. I haven’t heard of any reason for it. Their building permits are heading towards another record. Their city sales taxes are still positive and a good increase. While Canadian crossings at Pembina are down for the year, the motel taxes and restaurant and lounge taxes are up suggesting good retail sales. Maybe there is a decrease in the UAV traffic, but it is hard to imagine that would be down a 1000 people in a month. 10 percent is a lot.
I hope someone is studying this. After so many disappointing years Grand Forks aviation was experiencing substantial growth. Is Fargo “buying” those seats? What caused that city’s substantial increase, especially compared to the Grand Forks traffic.
Finally, when ever I read about the oil boom it seems there is always something about state permits, or hearings. It has always made me wonder why Bismarck appears to grow so little, especially this year with all the activity in Dickinson.


An interesting month in North Dakota when it comes to airline boardings. Five airports, Dickinson, Williston and Fargo, reported increases. So did Minot and Grand Forks, although just barely.

Dickinson’s although relatively small compared to the biggest five is getting there, and the increase as a percentage was huge, nearly 200 percent. Now what could that be? Oh, yes, oil. It is a good thing that the oil boom is over or there would have been several airplane collisions at the Dickinson airport. Again, the oil industry has entered a new maturing phase. First, they are only drilling holes which have nearly a 100 percent success rate, as fast as the fracking crews and the final set up crews can get to them. To have several hundred non producing wells sitting there waiting for completion makes no sense.

The Dickinson boarding data needs to be read with the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resource report, which is posted on this site when that department releases their data. See the date on that post. That is usually the time of month you can expect the report.

Williston, although only increasing just over 25 percent is also attributable to the oil business, and 25 percent is enough of an increase to make even JFK exuberant. Less than 10 years ago both airports (Dickinson and Williston) had about the same traffic. Williston of course is the more (the state’s most) important oil city. Minot’s slight increase probably can also be attributable to oil.

Grand Forks slight increase is what you would hope for in the part of the state that is slowing down. In fact, my bet if you did a real study the increase came about because of the university especially the Colleges of Engineering and Aero Space, and the unmanned aerial vehicle personnel located both at UND and at the air base.

The interesting data, the one I would look at in more depth if I was serious about knowing my competition is Fargo. The increase is nearly 14 percent. There is nothing here like oil, or government, or any thing that I am aware of other than just a continuing reflection of how fast Fargo is growing. How come? How come it is growing, and especially why is it growing at the speed it is continually, not in fit and starts?

As I have said before, Fargo and Sioux Falls are the Twin Cities furthest out and “newest” suburbs. It is a chicken and egg situation, but they have airplanes coming in from more places and that makes them grow, but they grow because those air planes come from more places.
While they are still small towns by America’s standards they are true urban areas and are regarded as places for corporations to consider for establishing at least part of their businesses. This is the first time that has happened in either state.


According to Kyle C. Wanner the director of the N.D. Aeronautics Commission North Dakota airline passenger numbers for April 2014 were 94,720, or an increase of nearly 14 per cent over April 2013. Five of the commercial airports had their best numbers on record this April.

Dickinson continued to be the biggest gainer as the oil patch activity continued moving south. Of course Williston “slowed” to just short of a 30 per cent increase.

Williston and Dickinson are important to follow as their increase demonstrates that the oil increase is still occurring. It and agriculture remain the two important cornerstones of North Dakota’s economy.

To me the interesting comparisons is looking at Fargo with its nearly 23 per cent for April and nearly 14 per cent for the year and comparing that to what is happening in Grand Forks. Minot and Bismarck are more complicated because of the oil expansion and Minot’s rebuilding from flooding.

The real comparison is between Grand Forks and Fargo. For the year the increase is less than 2 per cent for Grand Forks. As I noted above, it is nearly 14 per cent in Fargo. Why such a difference?

We know that Fargo has been growing. We also knew that Grand Forks had started to grow, and while I expected Fargo to continue its larger growth I didn’t expect that kind of difference. I think if Grand Forks does not want be left behind it is important for them to take a serious look at their economy and see what is driving it, or what is not driving it. What can Grand Forks do to increase its economy?

Given what is happening in North Dakota, Grand Forks is not in a position to allow those kinds of differences without looking for the whys. It is time for a serious review of the city’s economy, otherwise it may be the least important “big” town in the state.

The Chamber of Commerce, or the the local and state economic development organizations all look good in a booming economy. On the other hand, when the economy looks like it does in North Dakota on the one hand, and as it does in Grand Forks on the other, well it is time to prove your worth.


Here is the latest, that is including and through March 2014 and Year To Date data. There are no surprises here and really just what we would have expected. That is good.

First of all, remember both Devils Lake and Jamestown are going to be getting service from a new airline and that will bring a change in their destinations. That begins this fall if I remember. In the meantime, they have no service. That is why their reports are zero.

Second, as it has been for a few years now it is the oil patch airports of Williston and Dickinson that are still our big growth. For those who say the boom is over they need to look at this. It is probably fair to say that the oil companies know where the oil is, but there are still thousands of wells to be drilled to get at that oil. Someday there may be fewer people coming in to finish this up, but it isn’t now.

It is nice to see Minot has finally, I think, completed its adjustment from its terrible flood. Now we will be able to see the effect of oil. I think, as we see this month, that effect is growth in a lot of areas including airline boardings.

Bismarck is probably the only major city slowing down, and that is both because of changes in the oil boom and the fact that the legislature is not meeting this year. The oil boom is because of the current decline in state land leasing.

Finally, Fargo shows it is the busiest, fastest growing industrial town. Grand Forks disappoints me. A year ago it showed signs to me that it might be the next growth area in the state as Fargo was wrestling with some of the growing pains a city needs to go through. This month doesn’t support that thesis. We will have to wait a couple of more months to see if that is happening.


Normally we think that the airline data for February is sort of ho-hum. But this year there is something to comment on at least. That is, the total boardings for February exceeded 100,000 passengers. That is the first time that has ever happened, and it is a substantial increase from as recently as five years ago.

Of course the weather maybe had something to do with it. People wanted to get away this winter. But the main reason, the big change for North Dakota is oil. Oil has changed North Dakota in ways that we could not have imagined even those five years ago. North Dakota is a mainstream and highly important state of the U.S.

Just think how what has happened here has lessened the impact of the recession. Remember, it is not just in this state, but it is all the industrial production that took place across the United States because of the Bakken. Building all those pipes, all the airline trips, even all the extra calories consumed in the United States because of the hard working people.

As for my comments, not much different than last month. Minot again is down because they are post flood activity and Williston has a lot more flights than two years ago. So too Dickinson.

Devils Lake and Jamestown no longer have airline service until this summer, and we still exceeded 100,000 passengers.

Now we need at least another month to see what depth the economic change will take. Let’s hope our politicians provide the leadership this country needs.