Feature Stories

Sioux Falls Regional Airport: A key Forward Sioux Falls initiative

The Sioux Falls Regional Airport (Joe Foss Field) is a significant contributor to the area’s economy as it provides essential flights to both business and leisure travelers and remains a key initiative within the Forward Sioux Falls program.

It has seen many transformations since opening at its current site in 1939 when it was primarily used for mail transport. During World War II, the airstrip was transferred to the U.S. Army, where it served as a major radio school. In 1966, jet service began, as Ozark and Western Airlines offered service. The present-day terminal opened in 1970 and has seen multiple upgrades since that time including investments of over $45 million in the past ten years on terminal and parking improvements.

Currently, there are five carriers (Delta, American, United, Allegiant and Frontier), which combined offer non-stop service to nine destinations as well as five seasonal locations. And while commercial air service may be the airport’s highest profile service, there are several other users that also make a significant impact upon our area.

Joe Foss Field is home to the 114th Fighter Wing of the South Dakota Air National Guard, which alone boasts a $71 million economic impact to the Sioux Falls area. UPS and Federal Express transport over 60 million pounds of cargo annually, in addition to 18 million pounds of mail. Sanford and Avera health systems operate air med flights. General aviation includes Signature Aviation and Maverick Air as fixed base operators. Finally, the airport provides U.S. Customs and Port of Entry services.

Passenger enplanements peaked at 582,500 in 2019, but dropped sharply due to the pandemic. However, after a low mark of just under 294,000 in 2020, travel has increased and is showing signs for a strong rebound in 2021.

Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Letellier, says people are eager to resume flying. “With vaccines continuing to be more readily available and airlines taking steps to enhance sanitation, distancing and air filtration, we’ve seen many travelers motivated to fly and therefore, we expect to end 2021 in a strong way.”

Major improvements are ahead for the airport. The concourse/gate area will see new interior finishes as well as restaurant seating and food options upgrades, in addition the security checkpoint will expand screening options to improve passenger flow. Completed improvements over the past year include a remodeled/expanded baggage claim area and a new rental car quick-turn facility which will greatly improve the ability to make rental cars available for area travelers. An expansion of the economy lot will also ensure that future spring break travelers, as well as snowbirds, have ample parking. To cap off these significant updates, construction will soon begin on a modern parking ramp, to be located on what is now a portion of short-term/long-term parking.

Over the past ten years, the airport has focused much of its marketing efforts to promote that flying out of Sioux Falls is economical and efficient. As a result, FSD has increased its local market share for those departing from Sioux Falls by 23 percent.

Funding within the Forward Sioux Falls 2026 program will augment efforts to expand marketing Sioux Falls as a preferred destination to new regions, increasing passenger enplanements, continuing to reduce leakage to airports such as Omaha and Minneapolis, expanding provider routes, increasing the level of commercial air service and providing financial incentives to carriers to add new service destinations.

“We very much value the partnership that the Airport Authority Board has formed with Forward Sioux Falls,” Letellier said. “In addition, as a major investor, we’ve realized a positive return on investment and appreciate the significant role this economic development program plays within the entire Sioux Falls region.”