GRAND FORKS – After a difficult period in airline operations across the country, more flights have been added by carriers serving Grand Forks International Airport.
Airlines weathered a recent bout of bad weather that saw thousands of flights canceled across the country, and these carriers continue to battle crew shortages due to the coronavirus pandemic. But despite those setbacks, Allegiant Air resumed service to Grand Forks and Delta Airlines increased the number of round-trip flights to Minneapolis to four a day.
According to Ryan Riesinger, executive director of the airport, Delta has reduced the number of flights to three per day, due to the lack of crew. Problems arise when crew members test positive for coronavirus and then have to quarantine for a period of time. Delta was to add an additional daily flight to GFK in September 2021, for approximately two weeks. The number of flights dropped to three a day when those positive tests added up.
“We’ve been trying to get back to four flights a day for some time now,” Riesinger said.
Allegiant Air returned to GFK on Wednesday, Jan. 5, Riesinger said. The carrier offers flights to warmer southern destinations including Mesa, Arizona and Las Vegas. January, February and March are the busiest months for Allegiant at GFK, Riesinger said.
“We were happy to see those (flights) coming back,” he said.
While the most recent passenger count isn’t yet available, Riesinger said Delta flights were reaching about 80% capacity in late 2021, and a recent Allegiant flight to Mesa was also well booked.
The weather has recently been dire for flights across the country. As of Thursday last week, around 24,000 flights have been canceled, Riesinger said. Grand Forks also faced a similar situation when Blizzard Becca rolled through town late Tuesday, January 4, and early the next day.
But the coronavirus is still something Riesinger said he’s been monitoring. The omicron variant of the coronavirus has hit airlines hard, though he said, but at least locally things appear to have stabilized for those crews, he said.
Building plans at GFK
Riesinger said reconstruction plans for the intersection of GFK’s two main runways are on track. The project is part of plans there to rebuild the crosswind runway, to make it usable for commercial traffic, or as a backup should the main runway need repairs. Riesinger said the tender for the project will take place later this year and that airport management has already informed the airlines of their intention to undertake the project.
The construction means Grand Forks will be without flight service between Aug. 22 and Sept. 2. The project schedule is substantial and is carefully budgeted. Riesling said the plan was to land a commercial flight at GFK on the last day of construction, shortly after completion. Runway closures only apply to commercial aviation.