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ND Aeronautics director hopeful for more holiday airplane boardings

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Passanger airplane flying above clouds in evening.

North Dakota airports continue to recover from the travel restrictions imposed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

State aeronautics commission director Kyle Wanner said the boarding numbers aren’t yet in for the Thanksgiving holiday – but he’s expecting good numbers.

"The Thanksgiving week was very busy across North Dakota and across the rest of the country," Wanner said. "We had good weather, so we didn't have any delayed flights. That's going to help with those passenger boardings."

Wanner said he believes this will carry over for Christmas travel. Still, he says he understands the continued concerns about COVID-19.

"All that being said, our airports, from the beginning of the pandemic, have done an incredible job, in working with the airlines and doing whatever they can to help mitigate risks associated with the virus," Wanner said. "It's just my message that the airlines are there to serve people, and make sure they get from point A to point B in a safe and efficient manner."

Wanner said there are other reasons hey’re not yet back to pre-pandemic airline boarding numbers.

"One of the main reasons is we just haven't seen the airlines get back to a full recovery, as to the amount of departures and seats available to the traveling public," Wanner said. "A lot of that has been due to a lack of equipment and or pilots."

Wanner said as air travel ramps up for the holidays, he encourages travelers to plan ahead – meaning purchasing tickets well in advance.

"You want to make sure that you can get on these flights, as a lot are getting very full," Wanner said. "We're in a 70-to-90 percent load factor in a lot of cases, which is good from a profitability standpoint for the airlines," Wanner said. "That's a point where we would hope to see some additional capacity being added."

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