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Possible nonstop Dallas flights may be circling Rochester

The Dallas Morning News published a story stating Rochester International Airport is one of five airports in where American Airlines might add flights, thanks to grants from the federal government’s Small Community Air Service Development Program. The airport confirmed talks about a Texas flight are ongoing, but did not say what airline might provide the service.

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The Dallas Morning News published a story stating that the Rochester International Airport is one of five airports in small cities where American is adding flights, thanks to $3.65 million in grants from the federal government’s Small Community Air Service Development Program. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
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ROCHESTER — A Texas newspaper is reporting that new nonstop flights between Dallas and Rochester could be on the way, thanks to a $850,000 federal grant.

While Rochester International Airport officials did not confirm any new flights, an airport representative stated that talks about possible Dallas Fort Worth International Airport flights are ongoing.

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“Rochester International Airport secured a $850,000 US DOT grant to financially support focus in securing the DFW route. RST remains interested in securing new nonstop service from RST to DFW, growing other air service and restoring suspended service,” wrote Airport Marketing and Communication Manager Laura Archbold. “Receiving the federal grant does not guarantee new service. Airlines make their own decisions on service levels for individual communities.”

The Dallas Morning News published a story Monday morning stating that American Airlines plans to add flights from Dallas to five regional airports thanks to the grants. However, American did not confirm any Rochester flight.

DFW Airport is a hub for American Airlines, which is also headquartered in Dallas.

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Archbold did not comment on if the possible Dallas flights will be American Airlines flights. However, she did acknowledge that American does have plans for the area.

“Starting this fall, American Airlines has scheduled larger aircraft into our market, and this will help increase our seating capacity. The situation remains fluid as our airline partners continue to balance crew optimization and pilot shortages,” she stated.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s announcement of the grant last week did detail how the money is expected to be used in Rochester.

“The funding will be used for a revenue guarantee and marketing to secure nonstop service to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, connecting onward to cities throughout the United States. The community notes that it has lost service to Atlanta, GA, on Delta Air Lines, and to Chicago, IL, and Denver, CO, on United Airlines, and that the addition of service to another large hub would help alleviate those losses of service,” according to DOT’s description of the Rochester project. “The community is providing significant local funding for the project.”

If a new Dallas flight becomes a reality, it would be a boost to the Destination Medical Center campaign to make Rochester International Airport into a bustling hub bringing in patients for Mayo Clinic.

Any new flights would follow the recent addition of Sun Country's nonstop seasonal service from Rochester to Fort Myers, Fla. and Phoenix, Ariz., which started in 2021. They were temporally halted for the season, but are expected to resume soon.

“RST continues to have strong demand for service, and we are working hard to restore some of our lost seat capacity. RST went from 100,000 available seats in 2019 to 58,100 seats in 2022. Smaller communities continue to suffer disproportionately across the country due to the pilot shortages as airlines look to consolidate routes. Ongoing discussions continue with all our airline partners related to capacity and frequency,” wrote Archbold.

Mayo Clinic founded Rochester’s first airport in 1928. While the City of Rochester owns the airport, Mayo Clinic is contracted to manage it via its Rochester Airport Co. firm.

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After Mayo Clinic required its employees to use the local airport for work travel, it tallied a record 371,615 passengers in 2018.

Rochester received similar federal grants in 2012 and 2020 to land new flights. The 2020 grant resulted in a United Airlines flight to Denver and the 2012 grant spurred a Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta.

However, Delta ended its Atlanta flight in January and United also ended its Rochester flight after a year, so the grants do not guarantee a long-term commitment.
Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.

Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard Around Rochester," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.
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