Could Western ND Lose Commercial Air Travel?

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Western North Dakota airports are at risk of losing commercial air travel.

President Donald Trump is proposing to eliminate a program that helps keep airlines in rural communities.

Here’s Ray Strickland.

When Los Angeles resident Terry Thanos does business in Killdeer, he flies into the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt airport.

It’s convenient.

But without it, he questions how often he would be able to take a trip to Dickinson.

“The added commute for my team to come out here. It makes it challenging. It makes it costly,” traveler Terry Thanos said.

For many airports in rural communities like Dickinson, airlines aren’t exactly flocking to do business with them.

Delta opted not to continue doing service here a couple of years ago.

And United could have been on it’s way out if it wasn’t for the Essential Air Service Program.

“When the economy is in decline that subsidy is essential to ensure that commercial service continues to serve our community,” Kelly Braun, Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt airport manager, said.

The Dickinson airport receives about 4 million dollars a year from the program.

And with boarding’s well above pre-oil boom numbers, the airport is becoming more vital for not only Dickinson but surrounding areas.

“There probably are routes out there that are underutilized, but Dickinson is not one of them,” Braun said.

This isn’t the first time the Essential Air Service Program has faced criticism.

In the past, Lawmakers in Congress have said that the program is a waste of money.

If this part of President Donald Trump’s plan were to pass in Congress, many people who travel out of airports like here Dickinson or in Jamestown and Devils Lake, they may have to tack on another hour or two to their commute to get to the next closest airport.

“It creates added stress, added time and the commute is not ideal,” Thanos said.

Braun says the loss of the program could be devastating for Western North Dakota.

Under President Trump’s budget, 173 communities would lose federal EAS funding. The cut is just a proposal and Congress will have the final say when they craft the upcoming budget.

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