Aberdeen Airport to Lose Flight

Starting in the fall Northwest Airlines will be cutting its round-trip daily flights from Aberdeen down to a maximum of four.

Some North Dakota cities have experienced similar cuts already.

Northwest is blaming rising fuel costs for what it calls "schedule adjustments."

Aberdeen Transportation Director Dave Osborn said Wednesday he hasn't heard from Northwest on its plans for the fall schedule.

But Northwest has confirmed to the American News that starting Oct. 1 it will be cutting one round-trip flight to the Hub City.

Currently there are five round-trip flights between Aberdeen and Northwest's Minneapolis hub provided by Mesaba Airlines, which operates as Northwest Airlink.

The current Sunday to Thursday flights leave at roughly:
6:47 a.m.
8:10 a.m.
12:57 p.m.
1:45 p.m.
5:13 p.m.

On Fridays, there is no 1:45 p.m. flight, and on Saturdays there is no 5:13 p.m. flight.

Osborn said he's been hearing the same stories about cuts in service or in seats at airports in North Dakota, but he's gotten nothing official from Northwest.

"I haven't gotten any calls back on a difference in their flight schedules," Osborn said.

But he added, "I've been looking on the Internet, and the flights don't seem to be there."

New schedule: According to Northwest's Web site, www.nwa.com, the departure times for the four Sunday to Thursday flights will be:
8:10 a.m.
11 a.m.
2:50 p.m.
6:55 p.m.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the cuts will not result in the loss of seats in and out of Aberdeen because the airport will no longer share flights with other cities in the region.

Currently two flights come to Aberdeen from Pierre and one from Watertown, before heading to Minneapolis.

"There will be no loss in seats since you're not sharing that airplane with other cities," he said.

The downside to that arrangement is that there would be no air link between Aberdeen and those two cities for travelers needing that service.

Regional cuts: Ebenhoch added that the whole airline industry is having problems with the record-high fuel prices.

"All carriers are having to make adjustments to their schedules," he said.

Northwest has already announced reductions in seats on flights out of Bismarck and Fargo, N.D., as it switches to smaller, more fuel-efficient jets in those areas.

Waiting game: Osborn said he thought Northwest may be waiting on finalizing the flight schedule out of Aberdeen to see whether the airport received a federal Small Community Air Service Development Grant.

Should the city receive the grant, Osborn said the airport board hoped to use the $500,000 to entice Northwest to bring jet service to Aberdeen at least one flight a day.

According to the federal government, the city should have received word on that grant already, but Osborn said no cities have been notified, and repeated calls to Washington have met with the same "late July or early August" answer.

"What we do know is that when we went to (talk with Northwest officials in) Minneapolis, they told us about fuel costs and rising expenses and they said they were talking about cutting flights all over," Osborn said. "They told us Aberdeen is a strong market and that we may be able to maintain the seats on our own."

Osborn said his biggest concern with flight cuts is whether people flying out of Aberdeen will still be able to make their connecting flights in Minneapolis.

"I hope they'll be able to avoid overnight stays in Minneapolis," Osborn said.

Strike talk: Also on Wednesday, Mesaba Airlines filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota seeking to keep its own mechanics on the job if their Northwest colleagues walk the picket line. Mesaba mechanics are represented by Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which represents Northwest's mechanics. It claims in the lawsuit that a work stoppage by its mechanics could severely disrupt its operations.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press