Low oil, agriculture prices impacting ND airlines

Bismarck, N.D. - Low oil and agriculture prices are making big impacts on the economy, causing a ripple effect in some industry's across the state.

The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission recently released year-to-date boarding numbers, which show airlines are also feeling the pinch.

From 2008 to 2014 airports on the western part of the state had an average growth of 10 percent. Now it's a different story.

"When you look at the economy in North Dakota and look at a chart depicting the airline boardings in the state it definitely tells a similar story on how the economy is going," says Kyle Wanner, Director, ND Aeronautics Commission.

Boarding numbers in some areas have been decreasing since 2014, as have oil prices. At the peak of the boom a barrel of oil was around a $100. Now, oil prices in the state are less than $40, but the oil industry isn't the only factor involved.

"We have low oil prices, low ag commodities and a lower exchange rate with Canada. We also have a pilot shortage going on which is causing the pilots to adjust their flight schedules and reduce capacity in their seats," says Wanner.

Williston's boarding numbers declined by approximately 22,500 from 2014 to 2016. Dickinson's decreased by almost 18,000. Minot experienced the largest drop of 33,000 boardings.

"We don't anticipate this large of a drop in the future. We are estimating a million passenger enplanements for 2016," says Wanner.

Wanner says they're forecasting a plateau in boarding numbers until the economy improves.

Bismarck airport has seen an increase since 2014. Wanner says this can be contributed to the airports good air service and growing population.