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The original item was published from 5/14/2018 12:41:00 PM to 3/30/2019 12:00:05 AM.

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Posted on: March 29, 2018

[ARCHIVED] Minot Airport Proposes Extending Parking Contract

Republic Parking Systems would continue to manage parking at the Minot airport under a contract extension supported by a city committee Tuesday.

The Minot Airport Committee is recommending the Minot City Council accept the contract, which includes a management fee negotiated down from $128,000 a year to $52,000 a year. Airport Director Rick Feltner said the lower fee is possible based on costs being incurred by Republic. It also reflects the elimination of Republic's costs of preparing a management proposal, which would have been necessary to retain a contact if the city decided to request new proposals.

Feltner said use of the parking is down, reflecting fewer airline boardings, but revenue is tracking close to projections. The biggest budget issue is parking expenses are up due to higher than anticipated snow removal costs this past winter, he said.

In April, commercial airline boardings in Minot were down 4.86 percent from 2016 to just over 11,000 passengers.

In information presented to the committee, Feltner discussed the community's concern that lower airline fares in Bismarck are contributing to Minot's boardings decline. He examined Delta Air Lines fares for leisure and business travelers and found less of an overall fare disparity in leisure travel than exists for business travel, which tend to be booked on shorter notice. For instance, a business flight to Minneapolis from Minot was 93 percent higher than a Bismarck fare, and a Phoenix fare was 15 percent higher in Minot. A Seattle fare was 9.7 percent higher in Minot, while Denver fares were the same.

A leisure traveler going from Minot to Minneapolis would pay 15 percent more than a Bismarck traveler going to Minneapolis, while the traveler would pay 27 percent more to go to Phoenix, in the point-in-time fare comparison. However, a flight to Seattle cost 9 percent more from Bismarck, and a Denver fare was $4 higher in Bismarck.

Feltner said costs of a ticket are influenced by competition due to the number of carriers, the number of available seats to fill and how full planes are when they depart. Bismarck has more airlines and about 30 percent more seats, he said. Minot has a fairly high load factor, with planes often leaving at 80 percent full or better, which means there's little pressure on airlines to reduce rates, he said.



Equipped for Growth

A $40 Million, 115,000-square-foot expansion at Minot International Airport in Minot, North Dakota, was designed to help handle a significant increase in travelers.  The new terminal has been open for one year and the airport's Director talked with Prairie Business about the project and its impact on the facility's operations.

Q: What did the Minot International Airport's recent large expansion project entail?
A: This was a project that was first conceived in 2011.  Our new terminal opened for service in February 2016.  The main components of this undertaking were the design and construction of a new passenger facility, as well as expansion of the commercial ramp.  This, of course, meant planning for new roadways, parking facilities and all of the associated infrastructure required to support our new operation.  Once we were able to occupy the new facility, we needed to make plans for demolition of the old passenger terminal.

Q: What are some of the largest challenges in managing an airport that often exceeds its capacity for travelers?
A: An airport is essential to the economic viability of a community.  It may be the city's first opportunity to make a positive impression on people who are considering doing business here.  A right-sized and well-run commercial service airport is also critical to attracting new air service.  Airlines want to know that they can operate safely, efficiently and offer their customers a positive travel experience in terms of arrivals, departures, food and beverage, and rental car services.  In the case of Minot, the terminal was cramped, had only two gates to accommodate commercial aircraft, and lacked the amenities travelers deserve.  Now, Minot has the largest terminal in the state with plenty of room for growth.  

Q: Why was the project necessary?
A: At the time this project was first proposed, oil related industries were at their peak. and the Canadian dollar was very strong.  The existing terminal was operating beyond its capacity.  There were only two gates available for commercial aircraft, and we actually had to turn away airlines that wanted to serve our airport.  The terminal parking lots were overflowing into an adjacent softball complex and the building was bursting at the seams.  Initially, the task was to engineer improvements to the existing terminal in order to handle current demand, as well as plan for anticipated growth.  It became clear early in this process that it would actually be more cost effective and operationally efficient to build a new facility, while continuing to occupy the old one until completion.  

Q: How long does a project like this take, from beginning stages of planning and securing funding to completion of construction?
A: In November 2011, the city approved a terminal plan study to look at the options to accommodate not only the current requirements, but plan for future growth.  Once the preferred alternatives were agreed upon and estimated costs were determined, the plan for funding began.  A combination of federal, state and city funding paid for the project, and the new terminal opened on February 29, 2016.

Q: Since the new terminal opened a year ago, how has it affected operations at the airport?
A: Since opening the terminal a year ago, the travel experience has improved greatly.  Customers now have a much more efficient experience with TSA screening, and they are able to enjoy free Wi-Fi in the comfort of a departure lounge with plenty of seating and work stations equipped with charging capability.
State-of-the-art jet bridges are climate controlled, which is important on cold North Dakota mornings or hot summer afternoons.  The food and beverage offerings are top notch as well.  The airlines now have adequate operational facilities to ensure quick turnaround of their aircraft, as well as much-needed office space and baggage make-up areas.
All in all, the expansion was all-encompassing and was well overdue.  It would be difficult to imagine an airport more equipped for future growth.

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