HARLINGEN, Texas – The leaders of Valley International Airport say it is time to celebrate. Delta Air Lines is returning to the Rio Grande Valley with seasonal nonstop flights to Minneapolis out of Valley International Airport in Harlingen.

The flights will begin in mid-February and run through to the end of May.

“We’re super happy to welcome back our former partner, Delta Air Lines to our airport,” said Marv Esterly, aviation director at Valley International Airport. “We are continuing to do everything we can to improve airline service for the citizens of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Esterly said Delta paused their service to the Valley a couple years ago because of COVID and pilot crew issues. 

“But, now they are returning. It’ll be an abbreviated season, starting up on, I think, February 17 and flying through May.”

Previously, Delta operated six days a week out of VIA. This time it will be seven days a week but utilizing much bigger jets, Esterly explained.

“I think the big takeaway from this is they’re coming back bigger and better than before. When they left, they were flying regional jets, CRJ-900s with about 65 seats. Now, they are coming back with Delta Mainline, which is an a320 Airbus. That’s about a 165 passenger jet.”

Asked if having Delta back strengthens the Valley’s links to the Upper Midwest, Esterly said: “Definitely. We will be able to reach all Delta’s connections out of Minneapolis. So, we will be able to connect a lot of Upper Midwest cities through Minneapolis to the Rio Grande Valley and vice versa.”

Esterly said VIA has always had strong connections with the Upper Midwest. 

“Sun Country Airlines continues to grow and continues to expand their seasons. They have been operating out of here for more than 28 years. And so, with Delta coming back there’s truly a connection between the Valley and the Upper Midwest cities,” Esterly said.

“And I think now, more than ever, with the cost of fuel and heating oil and everything else going up… it’s awfully cold up there in the wintertime and it makes even more sense for the Upper Midwesterners to take that vacation down here for the winter.”

Esterly said the big selling point for those living in Minnesota is the warmer weather in south Texas. 

“No doubt about it. You know, I lived in Pennsylvania for years. When I was growing up in Pennsylvania I did everything I could to get to go further and further south until there was no snow and ice.”

Esterly also said that with Delta returning, his airport, working closely with South Padre Island, will focus more of its marketing effort in the Upper Midwest.

“We continue to work closely with the Island on that. We will target specific cities where there are kept connections. So, gosh, it could be any city up there in that area, there’s a whole list of them. Some of the smaller cities as well as larger cities. If there is a connection, where you can fly from that city to Minneapolis and then connect on the nonstop to the Valley, then those are the cities that we will be making sure that we, and the island, have marketing material there.”

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