Cancelled flights rare in Duluth

A story in Monday’s News Tribune told about an increase in late flight departures at the Duluth International Airport as the number of total flights nearly tripled in the last five years.

A lot depends on the weather, not just here but at the big hub airports — namely Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit —  where Duluth flights now go.

Executive Director Brian Ryks of the Duluth Airport Authority wasn’t aware of an alarming problem with late flights.

Alarming? Probably not. And interviews with passengers coming and going last week yielded few complaints.

Ryks said the airport’s focus is more on flight completion to avoid cancelled flights. And in that regard, Duluth is doing well.

“If there is an issue, our main concern is, is there a plan in place to accommodate passengers?” Ryks said. Contributing to the greater percentage of late flights in Duluth has been United Airlines’ daily direct flights between Duluth and Chicago. Since United started Duluth service in December, 20 percent of its flights have been late, says Wes Horrocks of SkyWest Airlines, which operates United’s Duluth flights.

(But again, I was hard-pressed to find anyone complaining last week when some flights were actually arriving early and the weather was beautiful).

“Our priority is to ensure our passengers arrive at their destination on time, with their bags, as scheduled,” Horrocks said.

While United has fallen short in that regard, in all but two of those months, SkyWest got its planes there. And in those other two months, 98 percent of its flights got to their destination, he said.

Are direct flights to Phoenix, Denver next?

 Today Chicago, tomorrow Phoenix and Denver?

Those are real possibilities for future nonstop flights out of Duluth, Brian Ryks, director of the Duluth International Airport, hinted this week.

But there’s a lot of “ifs” involved.

Current flights out of Duluth have to be successful. For United Airlines’ just-launched twice daily service between Duluth and Chicago, that means 70 percent capacity or 35 passengers on the 50-passenger regional jets used.

“You have to use it to maintain it,” Ryks explained.

Other direct flights out of Duluth are Delta Airlines’ flights to Minneapolis and Detroit and Allegiant’s Air’s flights to Las Vegas and Orlando.

The more traffic that comes through our airport, the more opportunities we will have,” said Ryks who estimates a $4 million per year economic impact with each additional daily flight.

“It is critical for the Duluth business community to have the alternative of flying into and out of Duluth,” said George Goldfarb, Maurices’ chief operating officer. “In order to attract and retain businesses, a convenient and accessible airport is very important.”

Goldfarb and many of Maurices’ staff are among those who will be using those Chicago flights. If enough others do and the flights are successful, chances are good United will begin nonstop service to Denver, its other hub, Ryks said.

And, he said, “nonstop service to Phoenix with Allegiant is a real possiblity.”

An improving economy and the $65 million Duluth air terminal being constructed also will give air travel to and from Duluth a boost.

 

Airport announces flight schedule to Chicago

If you’re looking to go for business or pleasure, the Duluth airport released today the timing of its twice-daily service to Chicago.

A round-trip on United Express will cost you $248 dollars, according to a quick search today on united.com.

One flight in the morning and one in early afternoon will depart for the Windy City. Returning to the Twin Ports, one will land in eary afternoon and one late evening.

Beginning Dec. 17, the schedule will be:

Depart Duluth: 6 a.m. Arrive in Chicago: 7:27 a.m.

Depart Duluth: 3:20 p.m. Arrive in Chicago: 4:47 p.m.

Depart Chicago: 1:10 p.m. Arrive in Duluth: 2:41 p.m.

Depart Chicago: 8:10 p.m.. Arrive Duluth: 9:41 p.m.