May 29, 2019

Business North

For the first time, Duluth has become a city with three airlines offering daily service.

American Airlines became the third carrier May 23 by offering two daily flights between Duluth and Chicago. It joins United Airlines, which offers three flights through Chicago, and Delta, which provides five flights to and from Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“It provides one more way for travelers to connect not only with domestic markets, but international ones,” said Anna Tanski, president and CEO of Visit Duluth. Her group and other business entities joined the Duluth International Airport Authority in promoting the local terminal to American Airlines. That effort proved to be a strong one, said Blaine Peterson, the airport’s director of operations.

“It speaks volumes about the community,” he said.

Adding American to the mix gives regional travelers “a whole new network” of destinations, said Billy Glunz, the airline’s director of government affairs. But the selection of Duluth didn’t occur before considerable research was conducted. “We’re very careful and take time in making these decisions,” he said, describing Duluth as “a good opportunity.”

American is flying an ER4 jet aircraft along the route. It features 50 seats.

Currently, about 95 percent of Duluth’s visitors drive to the city, but lofficials will be watching that number during coming months to gauge how big a factor the added American service will become, said Tanski, who also serves on the Airport Authority board.

The latest carrier growth doesn’t signal an end to Duluth’s aggressive effort to expand air service, Peterson added. The city’s six-year-old terminal has room for more, he said, and the structure was constructed to accommodate physical expansion.

The growing array of carriers enhances competition, airport Executive Director Tom Werner said in a news release, making ticket prices more competitive. “If travelers in this region continue to make the commitment to fly local, it strengthens our position to attract additional flight options,” he said.