Pandemic leads to fewer flyers at Bemidji Regional Airport

Airport chart WEB.jpg
According to airport staff, this data represents the number of passengers flying out of the airport on a monthly basis.

BEMIDJI -- Terminal traffic at the Bemidji Regional Airport has slowed over the past few months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, numbers should start improving in July.

According to Kyle Christiansen, assistant airport director, in May and June the mid-day flight by SkyWest that arrives and departs in a short time period was canceled. The flight is scheduled to resume starting Wednesday, though.

"That was our biggest change through all of this," Christiansen said. "It was a decision by SkyWest, which operates that flight. It was due to the drop in demand, there weren't as many people flying out."

Christiansen said that revenue enplanement -- the number of paying passengers departing from the airport -- began declining before May.


In January the number of passengers flying out was 2,708 and in February it was 2,724. Impacts of the pandemic were noticeable immediately, though, with the amount at 1,324 in March and 124 in April. For May, the number of departing passengers was 256.

"The numbers at the start of the year were right on pace," Christiansen said. "Both 2018 and 2019 set records for enplanements, and we were pretty much on par with what we've seen in those years. The mid-day flight coming back should definitely help now. It's going to be a while before the numbers get back to where they were. It's going to be a process, but we think they'll keep climbing."

In 2019, the airport had a total of 31,268 passengers departing and 30,558 arriving for a total of 61,826. For 2018, the airport had a total of 61,430.

The company flying most of those passengers is Delta Air Lines. For Bemidji, Christiansen the airline shifted some times, with the morning flight moved back and the evening flight coming in earlier.

After the pandemic started, Delta also began reducing the total number of passengers on flights and changed the boarding process, filling the aircraft from the back to the front. According to a release, Delta has extended its COVID-19 precautions through Sept. 30.

As part of this action, Delta is continuing its new boarding practices and capping the number of seats in cabins at 50% for first class and 60% in the main cabin. Delta is also requiring customers and employees to wear masks.

Christiansen said the airline has also added circle designs to the floor of the airport for recommended social distancing. The airport staff has also taken the action to block off some of the seating space.

In response to the pandemic, the federal government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act which provided $1.12 million for the Bemidji Regional Airport. Christiansen said the airport is using those funds to pay off airport debt and cover operating costs.

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