Airport expansion essential

Twenty-four consecutive months of record growth at Fargo’s Hector International Airport certainly speaks a lot. With our region’s population growth and burgeoning business climate, the airport has been doing a brisk business. However, the growth isn’t without its pitfalls.

While Shawn Dobberstein, the executive director of the airport and his staff are always looking for new flight opportunities, the director is mindful that the rapid growth is straining the airport.
It’s easy for the public to suggest that the airport should add another airline or two, and accordingly expand flights that are available out of Fargo. With the presence of Microsoft in Fargo, I’m sure there are Microsoft people who would love to have a non-stop flight available to Seattle from Fargo. Microsoft’s world headquarters is located in Redmond, Wash., a suburb of Seattle.
As Dobberstein noted in a Jan. 31 article in The Forum, in order for there to be a direct flight to Seattle from Fargo; it would depend on “committed support from Microsoft,” he said.
Others would love to see carriers such as Southwest Airlines provide service to Fargo. I agree with Dobberstein that adding Southwest is probably not going to happen. Our region would have to grow about five times the size it is before Southwest would consider Fargo. As he noted, airlines are always cost-conscious; airlines base decisions on making sure there will be enough passengers to fill flights.
Fargo Hector is known in the airline industry as a spoke city. Picture a wagon wheel with spokes connecting the wheel to the cog or the axle of the wheel. In the airline industry, each city that an airline serves is at the end of a spoke and those flights feed into a hub city – such as Chicago, Denver or Minneapolis. Fargo is fortunate to have 11 cities to which its current air carriers can fly passengers to.
It seems to me as an occasional observer, the front ticket counter arrangement, and the baggage claim area can’t be expanded any further. Then there are the areas of the airport the public never sees. The areas in the bowels of the terminal building where such things as luggage is sorted to be put on the correct flights and areas where the airlines and airport’s equipment is stored would likely need to be expanded if another carrier or two were to begin service in Fargo.
Then as Dobberstein noted, there are the things which passengers use that would need to be expanded. Expanded parking for one. Another plane gate or gates, and added restaurant and concession offerings.
The big question about any airport expansion would naturally be, where would the funds come from? Would there be a need to raise taxes in Fargo in order to finance the expansion? Could the airport avail itself of federal funding? Would there be an added surcharge on airline tickets?
At any rate, congratulations to Dobberstein and his staff for a job well done. He and his team should be commended for their efforts in making Hector Airport the best it can be.

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