Taking off: Airport boarding trends begin to increase
Boardings at Jamestown Regional Airport are beginning to take off and more flights are soon to follow.
"We're on a reduced flight schedule right now that will be in effect through June," said Katie Hemmer, Jamestown airport director. "We just have one flight right now that is the departure and arrival whereas typically we would have two arrivals and two departures per day. It's effective until the first week of July and at this point, SkyWest anticipates that they will return to the pre-pandemic schedule (in July)."
At this time the one flight offered is slated for a 2:45 p.m departure time. If the pre-pandemic schedule is implemented, the airport will offer boarding flights prior to 7 a.m. and at 2:45 p.m. A daily 10:30 p.m. arrival flight from Denver is also scheduled. Flight times are subject to change.
Hemmer said the airport has seen a dramatic decrease in boardings since the end of March when travel restrictions and recommendations were implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic. At that time the flight schedule did remain the same but the airport saw an average of fewer than five passengers per flight.
"Our boardings are definitely trending up from what they were at the end of March and beginning of April there," Hemmer said. "We are starting to see a lot more passengers, I think our high for one day boardings since the beginning of the pandemic is 17 passengers. That's getting much closer to an average."
Hemmer said the airport was down approximately 95% in boardings in March and April. The airport saw 590 boardings in March compared to 1,028 in 2018 and 958 in 2019. In April, due to the pandemic, there were 41 total boardings compared to 694 in 2019 and 877 in 2018. Hemmer said all North Dakota airports saw an average decrease in boardings of 94.61%. While trending upward, Hemmer estimated that the boardings are still down more than 50% pre-pandemic.
"I think that a lot of that is due to not having fully opened the rest of the country," Hemmer said. "We don't have the sporting events happening that people would travel for. Many people who canceled trips that were in that late winter, early springtime won't rebook those trips until next winter season.
"We're not seeing all the tourist destinations open across the United States. Disney just opened, Las Vegas just opened so some of those major tourist hubs that people would travel for - people are not booking their vacations there yet. But I do think we are starting to see some confidence in air travel returning in the general public."
The airport has seen 50 passengers from June 1-7. At this time the airport has a total booking of 139 boardings for the month of June. Hemmer said the boarding numbers are subject to change as the month progresses. She said she is pleasantly surprised that the confidence in air travel has not been permanently harmed by the nearly three-month downtick in airport traffic.
"Passengers still want to travel, they have a desire for air travel both for business and for leisure," Hemmer said. "As we start to see things like business conferences rescheduled, sporting events and vacation destinations open, I think we are going to come back bigger and better than pre-pandemic for travel. That is the hope of the industry and we are seeing good signs for that."
Hemmer said the signs will likely only get better as flight schedules return to the pre-pandemic norm.
"We just want to let everyone know that air service is available in Jamestown - it was not shut down," Hemmer said. "We're excited to restore an even better schedule for flights and connections to Denver starting in the later summer here. After we see that schedule restored in July, it should increase more booking opportunities for Jamestown air travelers."