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Heard on the Street: First United flight to land in Rochester on Thursday

A flight arrives at Rochester International airport.

The Rochester International Airportplans to welcome its first ever United Airlinesflight in style on Thursday.

The airport is hosting a celebration for when the first flight lands at 10:30 a.m. with water cannons shooting on the runway followed by a mayoral proclamation and ribbon cutting.

United's arrival on Thursday will mark the start of its three flights daily to United's hub at Chicago O'Hare Airport.

The new United flights combined with new flights from Delta is adding 100,000 more passenger seats to the small airport's annual offerings.

Things are looking up for the RST airport, which long has struggled to compete with the nearby Twin Cities airport. However, Rochester needs the local airport for domestic and international patients flying into Mayo Clinic, particularly to support the predicted growth driven by the Destination Medical Centerinitiative.


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

Another positive move of the airport that is happening in tandem with the new flights is Mayo Clinic's recent change in policy on employee travel.

Most Mayo Clinic employees traveling for work now are required to fly out of the Rochester airport instead of traveling to the Twin Cities. The edict, which went into effect in May, also includes employees flying into Minnesota from Arizona and Florida.

However, it does not cover doctors and scientists. Instead of requiring them to use the Rochester airport, they are "strongly encouraged to utilize" it. In 2015, Mayo Clinic listed 2,289 staff physicians and scientists based in Rochester. It reported 1,899 residents and fellows and 30,374 allied clinic and hospital staff.

The hope is the additional airline, the new flights and Mayo Clinic's increased support will enable the airport to reverse the decline in passengers that it has seen in the past two years.

Passenger numbers spiked from 223,791 in 2013 to a peak of 237,341 in 2014, but that overall trend reversed in 2015, with the passenger numbers falling to 231,966 and then to 229,062 in 2016.

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