After wind diversions and snow, Missoula airport turns to spring and new flights

Ground crews at Missoula International Airport prepare and American Airlines flight for takeoff to Dallas while bringing an Alaska Airlines flight in from San Diego. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Airport officials in Missoula are eager to put the month of March in the past and turn the page to warmer weather after recent storms and wind prompted delays and cancellations across the Rocky Mountains.

And as spring unfolds, Missoula International Airport will welcome a number of new and returning fights for the summer travel season, and passenger numbers continue to climb.

Travel through Missoula sits at around 60% of normal. This time last year, it was nearly zero.

“We’re on an upward trend,” said interim airport director Brian Ellestad. “We’re trending along and at least we’re going in the right direction. That’s nice to see.”

The past few weeks challenged routes around the region. In mid-March, Denver was hit with a record storm, prompting flight cancellations to and from Missoula that lasted for several days.

Earlier this week, a strong cold front also brought gale winds to western Montana. That prompted several carriers to divert their flights until the weather eased.

“They had quite the snowstorm in Denver and we ended the month here with some wind diversions,” Ellestad said. “American and Alaska (airlines) had some diversions. They had to divert to Boise one evening.”

With warmer weather on tap, the airport is gearing up for the busy season that began this month with Alaska Airlines’ inaugural flight to San Diego. The carrier is also launching service to San Jose and San Francisco while maintaining service to Portland and Seattle.

Allegiant Airlines will also begin nonstop service to Orange County while maintaining its existing routes to Mesa and Las Vegas, and seasonal service to Oakland, Portland and Los Angeles.

“We’ve also got more service to LA with Delta,” Ellestad said. “Every carrier with the exception of Frontier is going to be doing LA this summer. Atlanta is coming back this summer as well. That opens up a lot of cities on the East Coast with one-stop service.”