Alaska Airlines: Fargo Bound?

Written by on August 11, 2017 in Travel News

A recent newspaper report says there may be a new destination for Alaska Airlines: Fargo, North Dakota! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

You may think “who cares?” or recite the requisite “OhYahYouBetcha!” made famous in the award-winning movie Fargo and television series bearing the same name. But this possible route expansion would mean greater traveling opportunities — and have interesting consequences for several airlines (especially Delta).

Fargo – Seattle: The Nonstop Rumor

Fargo to Seattle service has been a vicious rumor for years.

The federal government threw in $500,000 to guarantee any airline flying between the cities wouldn’t lose money during its first year. But the best kept secret was which airline would be the one involved: Alaska or Delta?

Alaska was named as potential winner when Frontier announced its umpteenth return to Fargo. (Side note: Frontier and Fargo have a weird, on-again-off-again relationship. They’re like the John Mayer and Katy Perry of air travel. This is the fifth time in 42 years Frontier has operated in Fargo.)

Fargo: Not What You Think

Stock image of a wind frozen sea looking like a white snowy desert. (Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/iv-serg)

NOT Fargo. Really. (Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/iv-serg)

Let’s first dispel a few common misconceptions about Fargo.

It’s not some tiny, podunk town. In fact, the metro area’s population is just shy of a quarter million — and rapidly growing.

Downtown Fargo, Island Park, and the surrounding area as seen from a Delta Air Lines flight in July 2017.

Downtown Fargo, Island Park, and the surrounding area as seen from a Delta Air Lines flight in July 2017.

Yes, winter lasts about four months and can get very cold — just like much of the United States.

Forbes says Fargo is one of the best small cities to start a career or business. Several tech companies — including a major branch of Microsoft — are rooted in Fargo.

It’s home to three universities (and a college football team that wins its national championships by playing in an actual tournament! #GoBison!). Learn more about Fargo here.

Alaska Airlines: Fargo’s New Hope?

Fargo’s Hector International Airport is served by Delta, United Express, American Eagle, Allegiant, and Frontier. Non-stop destinations include Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (O’Hare), Dallas (DFW), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAS), Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), Orlando Sanford (SFA), Phoenix-Mesa (AZA) and Tampa/St. Petersburg (PIE).

Yoda greets passengers from atop the wing of a 1911 Curtiss Pusher airplane at the Fargo Hector International Airport.

Yoda greets passengers from between the wings of a 1911 Curtiss Pusher airplane at the Fargo Hector International Airport.

Northwest had a virtual Fargo monopoly before Delta bought the airline several years ago. Since then, Delta has essentially been Fargo’s hometown carrier. It offers the most daily non-stops (through Minneapolis) — some with regional partners and the rest with mainline service.

Tu-Uyen Tran and Patrick Springer wrote in a Fargo Forum article that about 30 people a day travel between Fargo and Seattle. Now, that won’t pack an Alaska 737. But it’s a good start for at least once daily regional jet service.

Tech giant Microsoft would likely be a major source of business for Alaska’s possible FAR-SEA route. Plus, Fargo’s Alaska Airlines service would also give leisure travelers a faster way to reach destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, and Asia.

Lower Fares?

An airline popping up in any city is always great for passengers. Even if the airline is a cheap, no-frills carrier (read: Spirit, Allegiant, etc), more competition is a very good thing.

Smaller markets (such as Fargo) in particular are choked with exorbitantly high airfares; their airports are smaller and have fewer gates than their larger counterparts. Simply put, service is limited and demand is high.

For Fargo-Moorhead metro area travelers, though, Alaska Airlines would be a welcome addition. Alaska and Delta aren’t exactly friends. Alaska would love nothing more than steal some of Delta’s loyal passengers. To do that, though, Alaska would have to offer great fares. And if Delta wants to keep its travelers, lower fares are a must.

Alaska could earn planeloads of new Mileage Plan members, too. Savvy Delta travelers are sick of the Sky Miles program that constantly tinkers with and devalues itself (like it’s rumored to –again — in the next month or so.

Why I’d Love Alaska Airlines in Fargo

I’m originally from Fargo and visit the Gateway to the West at least twice a year. I fly Delta from LAX because they have the most daily flights to Fargo (via Minneapolis). And like most Fargo area natives, most of my miles are with Delta (because of the Northwest buyout).

Hollywood Burbank Airport Bob Hope Burbank Glendale Pasadena Airport (or whatever it’s called this week) is much closer to my house and offers a few Delta Connection hops through Salt Lake City (SLC). The regional pilot shortage, however, has indefinitely suspended Delta’s SLC to FAR flights, so LAX is my only option.

(I can fly nonstop LAX to Fargo on Allegiant. Did that once and somehow survived. Lesson learned.)

Alaska has several daily non-stops from BUR to Seattle. I’d be happy to ditch the hustle and bustle of LAX — especially during the next seven years of Delta’s terminal construction — and fly Burbank-Seattle-Fargo. Yes, it’s about 400 miles more than LAX-MSP-FAR. But I’d earn more miles. Plus, I might even save time: the drive to Burbank is about 30 minutes from my house and the airpot itself is a laid-back cakewalk. You’re fine showing up an hour before departure.

LAX — on a good day — is at least 60 minutes from home. Even with CLEAR and TSA PreCheck, one tempts fate showing up an hour prior to departure at Hell-A-X.

Plus, this might be the perfect excuse to begin flying more on Alaska’s adopted new child, Virgin America, to other cities!

When Will Alaska Airlines’ Fargo Service Take Off?

Fargo Airport Authority Executive Director Shawn Dobberstein told the Fargo Forum‘s Ryan Johnson that he’s “‘confident’ it will happen eventually, but…[Alaska] has cut its regional travel schedule in response to the industry’s pilot shortage, meaning an expansion to Fargo likely won’t happen soon.”

While Alaska Airlines’ Fargo service isn’t a sure thing, Mr. Dobberstein’s confidence is very encouraging. Here’s hoping the regionals can keep offering good hiring bonuses and better working conditions — and Fargo will see Alaska Airlines sooner than later.

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About the Author

About the Author: Chris Carley is a writer, media consultant, voice over artist, dog owner, husband, and recently became a dad! He loves talking all things points and miles. You'll likely find him in an airport lounge while on a trip that involves the most circuitous route possible leading to his ultimate destination. .

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