HARLINGEN, Texas – The Rio Grande Valley can attract thousands more Winter Texans from the Upper Midwest thanks to the daily flights Delta Air Lines is putting on from Minneapolis to Harlingen.

This is the view of Nicolás J. Mirman, director of air service and business development at Valley International Airport. 

“Via Minneapolis, Delta has connections to more than 35 Upper Midwest and Canadian destinations. It will be the first time in a long time that places like North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, even Toronto in Canada have such easy access to our beach at South Padre Island.”

Delta will be utilizing an a320 Airbus that carries about 165 passengers to fly from Minneapolis to Valley International Airport seven days a week from mid-February to the end of May. This presents a great opportunity to attract more tourists from the Upper Midwest, Mirman said.

But, there is a challenge for the Valley, the commercial aviation expert said. Sun Country also flies from Minneapolis to Harlingen. Mirman said the Valley cannot afford to have Delta cannibalize Sun Country’s passengers.

“The challenge for the Rio Grande Valley is to absorb such an expansion of capacity. We will have twice as many seats as we had last year from the Upper Midwest. So the challenge is to make sure that Sun Country can fill up their planes to Minneapolis and Minnesota and then for us to take full advantage of what Delta brings to the table,” Mirman said.

American Airlines also flies to the Upper Midwest out of Harlingen, Mirman said, with one flight a week to and from Chicago. American also has a lot of Upper Midwest connecting cities to Chicago, he pointed out.

“At the end of the day, for our region, the Minneapolis market is already mature, Sun Country and even Delta had flown here for 30 years. The challenge or the opportunity truly is to expand on those connecting markets in the Dakotas, in Montana, in Illinois, in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska,” Mirman said.

“If we can start doing that this year, if we can keep both carriers (Delta and Sun Country) and even American flying in here for years to come, then it is going to have an enormous effect in the local economy.”

Mirman said that the potential number of visitors from the Upper Midwest coming into the Valley via Harlingen could be as high as 25,000 this winter period. If that were to happen the tourist dollars pumped into the Valley economy could easily reach $30 million, Mirman said.

“The Winter Texans that fly into the Valley this year could have an impact that could exceed $27 million to $30 million, easily. And that is money that wasn’t here last year,” Mirman said. “The challenge is to keep it and grow it for years to come.”

Mirman gave wrap-up remarks on the potential of it all.

“So, this year it is awesome because Delta is back. It is awesome because they are doing it every day of the week. It is also awesome that American is flying every Saturday, from February through April. And, finally, is also awesome that Sun Country has started in the market sooner, they started in September, and they’re going to go all the way through May, which is the longest they ever flown the market. Also, it will be the first time that they fly every day for most of the season. It is a perfect opportunity for us as the Rio Grande Valley to absorb all this influx of visitors. We’re excited about what is coming and we hope that everybody in the region gets as excited about this as we.”

Editor’s Note: Below is an in-depth audio interview with Mirman. In addition to discussing the potential for expanding the number of Winter Texans coming from the Upper Midwest, Mirman provides statistics on the increased number of passengers VIA is attracting and the new infrastructure projects underway at the airport.

Audio


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