- Associated Press - Sunday, June 17, 2018

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Delta Air Lines recently created a special flight to help a group of Belgian tourists reach their South Dakota vacation after experiencing travel delays.

The tourists boarded a flight from Amsterdam on May 31 as part of a reward trip for coffee roasters using creamer by Dutch dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina. But inclement weather delayed the initial flight’s takeoff to Minneapolis, where travelers met further delays because of short staffing at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol checkpoint.

The delays forced the tourists to miss their flight to Rapid City, South Dakota, said Patrick Spiessens, a cooperative representative. Delta spokeswoman Adrian Gee said the two options were accommodating the passengers in hotels that night, followed by an eight-hour bus ride to Rapid City, or something quicker.

The Rapid City Journal reports the special flight idea developed when a tour organizer muddling in the baggage area explained what had happened to a Delta employee, who made a few phone calls. Airline officials soon identified a 160-passenger jumbo jet and crew available to take the roughly 20 tourists to their Black Hills destination.

Gee wouldn’t say how much the special flight cost, but she estimated that sending the jet to Rapid City and back in a night amounts to “tens of thousands of dollars.”

“It may not be the most cost effective option, but it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

The tourists arrived in Rapid City in time to visit Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Custer State Park and other sites. They also took a trip to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary before heading to Wyoming.

“Our experience in South Dakota was wonderful,” said Elise Hinckxt, the tour’s organizer. “All of the participants loved the nature, the friendliness of the people and the ‘real’ American culture.”

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