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April 18, 2011 06:13 AM

More People Flying Sioux Falls

sioux falls, sd

The numbers are in and last month was the busiest March ever at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport.
That puts the airport on pace to reach an all-time record for the year.
It also means good news for travelers as another airline prepares to move in.

The lines aren't always long at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. Maybe that's good news for Samuel Larson.

"I'm on my way back home to Seattle," Larson said. 

He made the weekend trip for a wedding. And even though the wait time is low here, more people are flying from Sioux Falls.

"This is the first time since we've expanded the parking lot, five to six years ago, that the lot was full," Executive Director Dan Letellier said. 

Last month was one of the busiest ever at the airport. More than 37,000 people boarded planes; up 25 percent from a year ago.

"Why? What's happening in March? So yeah it's a little surprising. It's not normally the best time to travel. But it's way better than winter coming back to South Dakota," Larson said. 

"With Spring Break, colleges, public schools coming in the month of March and a long, cold winter. We had a lot of people wanting to get out of town," Letellier said. 

Passengers flew United Airlines most. Allegiant was a close second. The increased numbers keep Sioux Falls on track to hit or surpass it's all-time travel record set in 2007. And airport director Dan Letellier says, as another airline prepares to land this summer, the numbers could be even better.

"With Frontier and the low fares they're offering on their routes, all competitors are matching those fares. So those fares are spread across in a lot of destinations, especially the western half of the US," he said. 

"If tickets are cheap enough then we'll have to do it more often, because it's quicker than driving and it costs about the same," Larson, said. 

And that's exactly what the airport authority wants to hear as it prepares to push travel numbers even higher.

Frontier is set to begin flights in and out of Sioux Falls in July. Letellier says ticket prices may be cheaper then, but the higher jet fuel costs could off-set that discount. He expects more fuel surcharges attached to plane tickets if trends continue.

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