What is your role at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport?
My official title is director of aviation. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of our airport. This includes financial management such as budgets, capital improvement, Federal Aviation Administration accountability for financial records/reports; facilities/project management including the administration of federal and state grant applications, in compliance with all FAA guidelines and rules. Also includes perimeter areas, runways and taxiways, aprons, terminal building, hangars, equipment, and farmland, and associated leases; service management to work with airport tenants to deliver high quality, courteous, reasonable priced services to the customers of our airport. This includes the airlines, airline customers, rental car companies, rental car customers, tenants, corporate aircraft users, FBO, FBO customers, special events organizers, and special events guests; marketing management to implement marketing plans to effectively increase the usage of our airport by the citizens of Fort Dodge and surrounding region. This includes both short and long range goals and objectives to significantly increase the revenue and usage from and by the general public.
Why is having commercial airline service important to the economic future of Fort Dodge?
Air service provides needed connectivity to get people and goods to their destinations quickly and efficiently. It also plays a major role in quality-of-life and economic-development opportunities for our community. While it is not possible to put a dollar value on the role commercial airline service plays in contributing to business efficiency, studies show that businesses themselves indicate that among all factors they consider related to their ability to operate effectively, proximity to a commercial service airport ranks in the top three. Without commercial air service, our ability to attract and maintain employers in our region would be jeopardized.
What air service changes are anticipated in the near future for Fort Dodge?
Delta Connections has proposed to untie our flights from Mason City so that we would have our own direct flights to Minneapolis St. Paul's international airport. In about an hour from takeoff you would be arriving at the Minneapolis airport catching seamless connections to the nation or the world. In addition they have proposed adjusting schedules to provide our passengers with more desirable departures and arrivals. The schedule would be as follows - daily, seven days a week: Depart to Minneapolis at 7:10 a.m., arrive in Minneapolis at 8:24 a.m. or depart Fort Dodge at 2:45 p.m. and arrive in Minneapolis at 4 p.m. Depart Minneapolis at 1:05 p.m., arrive in Fort Dodge at 2:23 p.m.,or depart Minneapolis at 7:05 p.m., arrive in Fort Dodge at 8:23 p.m.
Proposed new daily flight schedule
Depart Fort Dodge - 7:10 a.m.
Arrive Minneapolis - 8:24 a.m.
Depart Fort Dodge - 2:45 p.m.
Arrive Minneapolis - 4:00 p.m.
Depart Minneapolis - 1:05 p.m.
Arrive Fort Dodge - 2:23 p.m.
Depart Minneapolis - 7:05 p.m.
Arrive Fort Dodge - 8:23 p.m.
These exciting changes could take place as soon as May - look for more details to come.
In addition, the airport will be undergoing a facelift. It's been 30 years and the terminal is definitely due for some updates. This change will occur in the passenger waiting, boarding, and ticket areas. It will include new ticket counters with help from Delta Airlines in designing the area that will work for their operations and better assist our passengers, such as Kiosk check-in stations. The renovation will include a stand-up counter with outlets that will accommodate computer needs including free Wi-Fi. These improvements will enhance and complement the changes that Delta is proposing to increase the usage of air service out of Fort Dodge.
What are the advantages of flying out of Fort Dodge rather than driving to a more distant airport?
If you would put a dollar value on your time, driving to another airport would not make any sense. Our check-in requirement is only an hour and 15 minutes before your flight time compared to two or even three hours at larger airports. Wasting time and money by staying at a hotel because you have an early morning flight is something we hope you do not choose the next time you fly. We offer small-town friendly service and take the time to help you with questions such as security requirements for your carryon luggage. So if you have something you shouldn't take, you are able to take it to your car or remove it before you go through security. Your parking is always free at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport. Wouldn't it be nice to avoid that panic attack you have at a large airport when you realize you may not have enough money to pay the parking charges to get your car out of the parking lot?
How can members of the community help keep the local airport successful?
Fly Fort Dodge! That's all you have to do to keep our air service. Delta has made the effort to improve the service by offering us direct flights and better times. We in turn, will need to prove we have the support for this service. If we do, the next step could be additional flights and regional jet service. If you use the airport, encourage others to do the same.
It's up to us - start checking fares early and check often. You can check fares anytime by going to Delta.com and entering FOD (Fort Dodge's three-letter identifier) in your departure city. Safe travels and we can't wait to see you the next time you choose to use our "mile of runway" to get to your destination. Thank you for your support.
Rhonda Chambers is director of aviation at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport.