Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

With deconstruction of the old passenger terminal in full swing, airport officials are now working to fill seats as Missoula approaches the onset of fall.

Missoula Montana Airport on Tuesday reported an uptick in the number of available seats this season, with a number of airlines extending their seasonal service, adding flights or moving to larger aircraft.

“September and October, there's more seats than back in 2019,” said airport Director Brian Ellestad. “September for us is historically a very down month. But we have more seats this year.”

Ellestad said Alaska Airlines will have five daily flights to Seattle on its fleet of jetliners as it phases away from service on the old turbo props. American Airlines also will have two daily mainline flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, where nonstop flights are available to hundreds of national and international locations.

United and Delta also plan to continue with their core suite of flights, including Denver, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. Ellestad said some routes have been upgraded from regional aircraft and condensed into larger mainline aircraft due to the current pilot shortage.

“We're working on getting all those seats filled,” Ellestad said.

With Phase 1 of the new passenger terminal now finished and Phase 2 under way, the airport has room to accommodate more flights and more passengers.

With the opportunity at hand, airport officials plan to travel to several air conferences to meet with airlines in hopes of expanding local service. The first conference takes place in Helena and the second in Alabama.

“There's five or six airlines we're going to go meet with in Helena,” Ellestad said. “We have another air service conference in the fall in Alabama. There will be different airlines down there.”