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Making a Comeback: Rapid City Regional Airport looks to restore lost flights

Because of the pandemic, the airport lost its direct route to Phoenix Sky Harbor through American Airlines.
 Rapid City Regional Airport, Rapid City, S.D.
Rapid City Regional Airport, Rapid City, S.D. (KOTA)
Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 12:25 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Rapid City Regional Airport wasn’t immune to the toll the pandemic took on airports across the world. Though flights to certain locations were lost due to the pandemic, they could be making a comeback.

It’s the offseason at Rapid City Regional Airport. In just a few months, officials say this empty lobby will be bustling with tourists much like it was last year.

“Through 2020 we found that people wanted to get to the great outdoors and get to a place where they felt safe and South Dakota has been a place that has remained open,” Patrick Dame said.

And that’s why Dame says this airport’s numbers are much better than others across the country. But even with those numbers, Dame says since the start of the pandemic, airline passenger traffic is down about 54% in our area. The TSA says the national average is about 74%.

“We don’t expect to see historic 2019 numbers, but we do expect to continue to recover,” Dame said.

Because of the pandemic, the airport lost its direct route to Phoenix Sky Harbor through American Airlines. Officials are also still waiting to hear if seasonal flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Newark will be restored.

To help the airlines with start-up costs, Dame says he is speaking with state legislators about a new bill. The goal is to provide funding to the carriers if and when they come back.

“Airlines often when they first start a route will lose money in the first couple of months maybe year,” Dame said. “They want a partner at the table on some of those losses to be able to get back up and running and healthy.”

Dame says this year’s goal is to get passenger traffic to about 70% of the 2019 levels.

If that’s the case we could see big changes in years to come.

“We expect 2022 and 2023 to be a future record-year,” Dame said.

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