As passenger boardings across the state are slowly declining, boardings continue a positive trend at XWA, prompting airline partners to begin providing additional service to the area.
The latest numbers for August show Williston Basin Airport was about half of what it was in 2019, but triple the numbers from the same time in 2020. With the addition of Sun Country Airlines in September, providing seasonal direct flights to Las Vegas, more people are beginning to utilize XWA for their travel needs. Airport Director Anthony Dudas said airline partners are taking notice of these factors, and responding accordingly.
“In October, we’re expecting to see an additional flight added by Delta Airlines,” Dudas told the Williston Herald. “So we will now have two flights to offer direct to Minneapolis per day.”
Dudas said United Airlines is seeing the positive passenger trend as well, and will continue their three daily flights, but added that XWA was expecting potential changes, with the possibility of additional flights or larger aircraft. While Williston was not experiencing a reduction in passenger traffic, other airports across the state have seen dropping numbers.
Over the last few months both Delta and United Airlines have returned to a pre-COVID level of service at XWA, which Dudas said along with the addition of Sun Country has contributed to the positive numbers.
“Both Delta and United have created a significantly better connection and level of service to our community,” He said. “With that, we’re seeing our community utilize those services more. We are seeing the uptick and the strength in our market and the traveling passengers here in Williston because of that additional service and those additional options.”
Sun Country’s initial season of operation ends on Nov. 28, and Dudas said he hopes to see strong support from the community and region in order to continue providing additional travel opportunities and connections in the future.
Sun Country Airlines is operating a charter from XWA direct to Nashville on Oct. 28 for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game, featuring UND and Penn State at the Bridgestone Arena. But if hockey isn’t your thing, Dudas said that’s not a problem.
“You don’t have to be going to the game to utilize this flight. You can absolutely book a ticket and just enjoy Nashville.” He said. “It’s a Thursday afternoon departure and a Sunday morning arrival in to Williston, so you’ll get back in time to go trick-or-treating with your family!”
Dudas added that the charter was a unique opportunity for XWA and Sun Country and that if it’s successful, it could give XWA the opportunity to accommodate these types of flights and special destinations in the future. As more people utilize XWA, Dudas said that puts the airport in a better position to be able to not only offer additional flights, but entice other carriers to fly out of Williston as well.
“As we continue to show the needs of our community by using those services, that is going to put us in a place to allow for continued growth and expansion into other markets.” He explained. “We are seeing a lot of strong support from our community. We would like to see more people utilizing the Sun Country service specifically, just to show that we do want and need these types of reasonable fares to vacation destination opportunities for travel locally.”
With the additional flight from Delta, Dudas said XWA will be closer to 2019’s numbers, and that he anticipates continued growth in travelers using XWA moving into the holiday season.