Flights restored: Delta bringing back third departure, arrival to Aberdeen

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Jan. 7--Delta Airlines will restore a third daily flight to and from the Aberdeen Regional Airport beginning in April.

A spokeswoman from Delta announced the decision on Wednesday, just a day after the airport had dropped to two flights daily.

"The Aberdeen community has been very vocal in its interest for additional service from Delta to its Minneapolis hub, and we have continued to listen," said Karen Zachary, general manager of network planning at Delta. "The improving economy, as well as an increase in customer demand, has allowed us to provide this added frequency for a total of three peak daily flights to Minneapolis."

Aberdeen is served by Mesaba Airlines, a Delta Connection carrier. Until Tuesday, there were three departures -- early morning, noon and late afternoon. Right now, only the early morning and noon flights remain.

On April 6, the late afternoon flight from Aberdeen will return with a 5 p.m. departure. A Minneapolis-to-Aberdeen flight is also coming back and will leave at 2:45 p.m. and arrive in Aberdeen at 4:15 p.m. Travelers will be able to book the restored flights beginning Feb. 6, according to a release from Delta.

The news of the flight returning was met with excitement Wednesday from many community leaders and congressional delegates who had lobbied for it since late last year.

"It is good news," Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen said. "I don't know why they changed their mind, but we'll assume that our efforts have been rewarded."

Northern State University President Jim Smith said the return of the flight is positive for Aberdeen and the university. The late-afternoon departure will help get prospective employees into and out of town for interviewing, and it will allow faculty and staff to travel where they need to go, he said.

"I'm delighted," Smith said. " ... I think the letter writing and phone calling made a difference. I'm really proud of people who stepped up to do that."

But it doesn't stop there, said Julie Johnson, executive director of Absolutely! Aberdeen. She said a lot still needs to be learned about Delta's future plans for the airport.

Johnson and others have also been working on a marketing plan for the airport and hope to get more people on flights in and out of Aberdeen. Delta originally dropped the third flight because of declining passenger numbers.

"Now the test is to make people understand that they have to use those three flights," Smith said.

Dave Osborn, airport manager, said he hasn't been told why the third flight was restored to Aberdeen, but the letter-writing campaign probably helped, he said.

Involvement from South Dakota's congressional delegation probably didn't hurt either, he said. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., or members of their staffs were involved in local meetings from the start and kept in contact with Delta about their concerns.

"Given the importance of air service to economic development in northeast South Dakota, I'm pleased that Delta has announced its intention to restore a third flight to Aberdeen," Herseth Sandlin said. "I commend the efforts of leaders in Aberdeen and the community as a whole in demonstrating the critical need for transportation infrastructure."

"The local community really mobilized and came together as effective advocates for improving air service, and their work has paid off," Johnson added. "Dependable and frequent air service will help grow the local economy and not only connect people with friends and family, but also expand new businesses and markets."

Thune, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the airline industry, was in Afghanistan on Wednesday, but Andi Fouberg, Thune's communications director, said he was happy with the result.

"Members of the Aberdeen community expressed their support for this service and the importance to the economy of the region, and Senator Thune is pleased with this result," Fouberg said. "He will continue working to ensure that Aberdeen's passenger air service needs are met."

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