Officials with the Great Falls International Airport announced on Monday that Delta Airlines direct flights to Minneapolis are scheduled to return on February 17, 2023.
A news release says that flights will operate daily, leaving Great Falls at 5:45am and reaching MSP at 9:25am. Returning flights will depart MSP at 9:30pm and reach Great Falls at 11:15pm. Flights will be on a 76-seat regional jet with two-class service.
"The timing was really a surprise,” said John Faulkner, Great Falls International Airport director.
Faulkner said while the timing was a surprise, the flights coming back after being cut by the airline in 2021 is not a surprise.
"We had been talking about it off and on over the last year and a half, kind of since we found out the flight was going to be put on hiatus,” Faulkner explained.
So why are the flights coming back now, especially given that February is typically a slow time of year for travel? More pilots.
"It's all about pilots. As pilots are graduating and getting into the system, there's a lot of partnerships changing in the regional airline side of things that are freeing up some additional pilots,” said Faulkner.
Patrick Neubeck frequently flies between Great Falls and Minneapolis: "Usually four to six times a year."
He is looking forward to being able to visit his grandkids more often now that the flights are coming back and hopefully avoid some headaches in the process.
"We just flew in from Minneapolis having to go to Salt Lake City and then up here and the number of delays are great. So this direct flight back and forth will be awesome,” Neubeck said.
Aside from potentially making travel easier, the flights, which are expected to be permanent, could help market the Great Falls area and, Faulkner said, are a huge step in recovering from the pandemic.
"I do think it might inspire some of the other airlines to add some additional seating into the market,” said Faulkner. "If you look on Delta's website, it's scheduled out in the booking window they call it. As far out as you can book a flight you can book Minneapolis. Of course, these are still crazy times we live in. There's still a pilot shortage, oil could easily spike tomorrow up over $120 a barrel, and there's still a pending recession that most economists say is going to happen next year. So we're pretty confident it's back to stay but it's hard to say what the future's going to hold, really, for the entire industry."
Visit the Delta website for flight and price information.
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