Northwest Cuts Aberdeen Airport Flight

Officials at Aberdeen Regional Airport have received the fall schedule of flights from Northwest Airlines, and it includes an anticipated reduction in service.

After Oct. 1, the airport's earliest flight will no longer exist. It currently arrives from Watertown at 6:26 a.m. and departs for Minneapolis at 6:45 a.m.

The 8 a.m. flight will be pushed back 10 minutes as well.

The new schedule will leave Aberdeen Regional Airport with four outbound and four inbound flights daily Sunday through Thursday; there are five inbound and outbound now.

The Friday and Saturday schedule will continue to have four inbound and four outbound flights after Oct. 1.

Dave Osborn, city transportation director, said that while the lost flight creates a bit of an inconvenience for people, there is one positive.

Currently, the 8 a.m. flight originates in Pierre and it averages 18-20 passengers from that city, leaving only 14-16 seats for Aberdeen-based travelers on Northwest's 34-seat turboprop planes.

Osborn said the new 8:10 a.m. flight to Minneapolis will originate in Jamestown, N.D., which only averages 6-8 passengers on that first flight out, leaving more seats for Aberdeen passengers. It will be the only inbound flight at the Aberdeen airport that does not originate in Minneapolis; all the outbound flights already go there.

"Sharing with Jamestown, we'll actually have more seats available (at that time) than ever before," Osborn said.

Enough seats?: But the new schedule has its critics.

"Sharing that first flight out with Jamestown, and combining the 6:45 and 8 a.m. flights - I don't know if that's enough seats," said Airport Board Chairman Chuck Bensen.

He and Osborn both expressed concerns over passengers being able to catch connecting flights in the Twin Cities, especially for folks looking to get to the East Coast before noon.

Osborn said it was likely that passengers wouldn't be able to make those connections anymore, even though Northwest had assured him that the 8:10 a.m. flight would still be able to make most connections in Minneapolis.

Concerns about the number of seats available could be alleviated if Northwest commits a 55-seat regional jet to Aberdeen for the first flight out, but that's a long way off right now, airport officials said.

The airport had planned to use the $450,000 federal grant it was awarded last week to help attract the partial jet service, but with Northwest facing tough financial times and a mechanics' strike, now is not the time to ask for additional service, Osborn said.

In addition to the new daily flights, the schedule shows extra flights in mid-to-late October for hunting season, which Osborn called the airport's busiest time of the year.

From Oct. 16 through Oct. 29, one daily regional jet flight will arrive from Minneapolis at 12:35 p.m. and depart Aberdeen at 1 p.m.

Additional inbound jet flights on Oct. 13-14 are scheduled to arrive at 4:35, 6:30 and 8:35 p.m.

Those flights are set to depart at 1, 5 and 9 p.m.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press