By Bill Hudson

ST. CLOUD (WCCO) — In an empty parking lot east of St. Cloud’s airport, the only birds heard taking flight have the chirp of sandpipers. The City’s airport terminal sits empty and jet ways lead nowhere. But now city and business leaders have a plan to bring a carrier back.

Despite a $5 million investment in the regional airport’s passenger terminal, ramps, runway and tower, the airport has no commercial air carrier.

“It steadily declined from six flights a day to four and then two, to finally no flights a day,” said St. Cloud mayor Dave Kleis.

Ever since Delta Airlines pulled out of the airport in 2010, St. Cloud’s air travelers have been forced to drive 75 miles to MSP International.

That’s both an inconvenience to passengers and costly to business. It’s estimated that having local air service with connecting flights to anywhere in the world adds $17 million of annual economic activity.

That’s one reason the city is making the return of air service a top priority. To entice an air carrier to begin serving local customers, the city and area business leaders have a plan. They’re soliciting area companies to pledge up to $5 million in annual travel commitments.

In addition, St. Cloud was awarded a $750,000 U.S. Department of Transportation grant that will be matched with another $250,000 in city funds. Together, the $1 million would insure any prospective carrier against operating losses.

The grant, along with the so-called travel bank of pledged business, smaller airlines like Spirit Air or Sky West could find the daily service between St. Cloud and Chicago O’Hare worthwhile.

“We’re saying to airline X, ‘here’s a business commitment that this group of businesses will pledge this much air travel to this route,’” said Kleis.

If it’s successful in attracting a smaller carrier, Kleis hopes that it would just be a matter of time before competition would bring Delta Airlines back in — giving businesses a badly needed alternative to an empty parking lot.

Comments (10)
  1. Mary says:

    “Despite a $5 million investment in the regional airport’s passenger terminal, ramps, runway and tower, the airport has no commercial air carrier. ”

    These people are idiots and shouldn’t be allowed to spend other people’s money.

    What other conclusion is possible?

    1. @Mary says:

      Mary, the $5 million investment took place a few years ago when there was daily commercial activity at the airport.

  2. Exp says:

    With airports it’s a “Build it and they will come” thing, but Delta and its subsidiaries are the only major carriers in MN that runs regional flights, and when they pulled out of St. Cloud, there wasn’t anyone else.

    This is more another example of why mega corporations shouldn’t be allowed to get bigger. Delta’s merger with NWA has done nothing for the passengers or the state. We are now more expensive to fly out of (11th most expensive in the nation) and they’ve either moved workforce out of state or laid them off. Customer service stinks so bad they have to run “we appreciate our passengers” commercials to dupe people into thinking they care. On top of that they’ve been axing the regional flights right and left and St. Cloud airport was one of the victims.

    1. Bill says:

      Your conclusion makes no sense.

      Large corporations have an economy of scale and can provide goods and services cheaper than small corporations.

      It’s simply not profitable to have a route to St. Cloud irregardless of the size of the company providing the service.

  3. Plane says:

    Don’t forget the coverup going on in closing the SCSU aviation program.

  4. PoliticiansSUX says:

    Apparently there is not enough demand for air cargo in St. Cloud overcome the cost of driving 75 miles to MSP. Pretty simple St. Cloud, develop more business that requires air cargo or go over to SCSU and take the macro economics class a few more times.

  5. Matthew says:

    Just another reason to live in the Cities.

  6. CWAY says:

    I Believe it will work! Business are not obligated to spend money unless they will use the service! If it will help the local economy I hope it happens sooner than later! I personally hate driving to MSP from here myself!

  7. Somali Air :-( says:

    Sadly, that’s a good one!! 🙂
    I have flown out of the St. Cloud Airport and it was wonderful! They expanded, because the demand was there. Most importantly, they, LIKE MOST OF MINNESOTA, believed Delta when they said “we’re staying…nothing is going to change..etc etc”. At the end, Delta raised the St. Cloud tickets prices so much, I couldn’t justify using that service any longer…then Delta comes out and says “ridership is down”…duh they wanted that to happen so they could leave. I wish more people would boycott Delta until they wake up and start treating right.

  8. Kevin says:

    African Air??????????

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