Dickinson's New Airport Taking Shape

Two long-term improvement projects for the airport revolve around enhancing the facility's runway and finding a solution the space issue within the airport's cramped terminal


Feb. 09--Matthew Remynse, manager of the Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport, has overseen a lot in his six years in Dickinson.

He oversees a facility that continues to shatter passenger boarding numbers every year and, in 2013, added regional jet service from major carriers United and Delta.

Remynse has a lot on his plate these days.

He spends time on the phone discussing the possible addition of major hubs and studying what step could be next in the airport's expansion. Still, Dickinson's airport remains a small-town operation where its manager has a hand in just about everything.

That was never more evident than when, during an interview at his office in late January, a traveler dropped by his office, looking for help with a pressing problem -- the soda machine had eaten his money.

"Sorry, am I interrupting?" said the customer. "My co-worker put some money in the machine and didn't get a soda pop."

Remynse did what he could to help the man and his friend get reimbursed. Not typical of a person in charge of the day-to-day operations of an airport, even one of Dickinson's size.

But such is life for Remynse, who came to Dickinson as the airport's manager in 2006.

Since then, he has been at the forefront of a lot of changes, including the addition of direct flights to Minneapolis and Denver last year.

"When I did my interview with the board, I told them I planned on being here for four years," Remynse said. "I wanted to get my experience and then move up to the next level of airport. In 2010, though, we started really picking up, and I remember thinking back then that the goal of getting regional jet service was 100 percent obtainable."

Improving service

With western North Dakota's economy booming from the impact related to the Bakken energy play, Dickinson was beginning to look more attractive to the major airlines.

A little push from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., helped convince United and Delta to bring 50-seat regional jet service to the Queen City, with United offering service to Denver and Delta to Minneapolis.

Before the two big boys came along, the airport offered service to Denver through Great Lakes Airlines -- which it still does -- though the association with United and Delta clearly elevated the airport's standing.

"Delta was the big surprise to me," Remynse said. "When I started, I never thought we'd get Delta because this community had never had Minneapolis service. We tried for a long time with Great Lakes to get a Minneapolis route, but they tried that in Williston and it didn't work very well. United announced on Feb. 2 (2013) that they were coming and, low and behold, Delta announced on Feb. 6. That was a good surprise. It made everything more challenging, but those are good problems to have to work through."

Thanks in large part to the added United and Delta service, Dickinson's airport recorded 35,125 boardings in 2013, representing an eye-popping 50 percent increase from 2012. Both airlines announced in January that they will add a third daily flight to Minneapolis and Denver and, according to Remynse, Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport could soon add a few more hubs.

"Right now, we have two major air carriers that go to two great hubs," Remynse said. "The board has discussed this in the past, but I think what the airport needs to look at now is adding some other hubs. Can United put in a Chicago flight? Can Delta put in a Salt Lake City flight? Is there a demand for those hubs? Another big question is whether United can get directly to Houston from Dickinson. Those types of additions aren't out of the realm of possibility at all."

Focused on improvements

Dickinson Airport Authority chairman Jon Frantsvog said the airport's growth has been exciting to both watch and manage, though growing pains have also been part of the deal.

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