As the metro’s only airport, Hector International Airport is a key player in bringing people to our community through air travel, and it plays a vital role in the region’s economy. November’s Eggs & Issues looked at this very topic. Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of Hector International Airport, joined us for an update on recent upgrades and future plans, and Michael Lum, consultant with Sixel Consulting, shared an overview of the air service market.
Here are a few things we learned.
The airport’s largest revenue driver is the parking lot, which generates between $2.5 to 3 million a year, followed by car rentals through a revenue agreement, which generates about $1 million.
No tax money goes toward the day-to-day operations of the airport; it is 100% self-sufficient.
$15.3 million was spent on airport construction in 2016.
There are 89 airports in the state of North Dakota.
All airports in ND have an estimated $1.56 billion economic impact. Fargo’s is over $378 million.
For those that travel internationally often, it is recommended to use the Global Entry program for expedited clearance through customs. More info can be found through Customs & Border Protection.
For those that travel domestically often, TSA Pre-Check expedites screening through security, and makes the airport more efficient too.
TSA and other airport vendors are looking for employees, and female screeners are especially needed.
The Airport Authority has determined that a parking garage isn’t viable right now, but there is a spot for it in future master plans.
An elevated, enclosed walkway is planned to connect the parking lot to the second floor passenger terminal.
Also in the master plans is space for new gates and terminals to the East, more food & beverage options and expanded employee parking.
FedEx’s cargo flights just started operating out of Fargo, bringing in 75 jobs plus another 50 through its feeder partner and post office contractor.
The cost of oil and current economy greatly affect the airlines, and when the price of oil increased, airline capacities dropped—though it recently has slowly started to go up again.
Average domestic fares have also increased. Today, they are 19% higher than they were 10 years ago.
Another result of oil’s increase and the economic downturn was consolidation or mergers among airlines. Today, we have just four large carriers compared to more than 10 decades ago.
Today’s four major airlines – Delta, United, Southwest and American – operate 82% of U.S. domestic flights.
An average of 1,130 passengers a day use Fargo’s airport. An estimated 539 “leak” to Minneapolis instead.
Locally today, Delta carries about 44% of domestic traffic; United 23%; and American 19%.
The airport staff and Sixel Consulting has met with eight other airlines in the past year to explore increased air service. Lum said that they are strongly pursuing Alaska for their Seattle service.
The industry is experiencing a pilot shortage due to many factors. Dobberstein said that even the military is experiencing this, and he thinks it is only going to get worse, though he is advocating for a quality-based training program rather than quantity.