Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula Montana Airport saw a record number of passengers arrive or depart from the Garden City in July, representing a 25% increase in passenger growth over the same period last year.

Airport director Brian Ellestad said nearly 121,000 passengers passed through the airport last month, “cementing MSO's reputation as a standout performer in the aviation industry.”

It also represents a nearly 7% increase over pre-pandemic figures set in July 2019, which was a record year for the airport.

“This milestone is a reflection of our ongoing efforts to increase travel options for our community,” Ellestad said.

The airport in recent years began a roughly $100 million project to replace its old passenger terminal with a new one. The first and largest phase of that project opened early last year and set the stage for additional growth.

The second and third phases are currently underway and are expected to open in early 2025.

The new project will provide more room for passengers, more amenities for travelers and more room to park and board aircraft. Already, airlines are now serving Missoula with larger planes that seat more passengers.

“Besides an increase of passengers, more importantly, each flight was near capacity, which helps our case for additional future flights and-or larger aircraft, which helps lower airfare for the community,” Ellestad told the Missoula Current on Thursday.

This year, Alaska Airlines began providing four daily flights to Seattle and nonstop weekend service to Portland, San Diego and San Francisco. Allegiant's 2024 schedule also includes flights to Las Vegas, Mesa, Oakland and Los Angeles while adding a new route to Orange County, California.

United increased its frequency to Denver and has added flights to Chicago and San Francisco for the summer while American Airlines added more seats to the Missoula market. It currently provides two daily flights to Dallas, along with service to Chicago and Los Angeles.

The airport in February became the second busiest in the state behind Bozeman.