Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) While airline traffic typically tails off in September at Missoula Montana Airport, the last few weekends have been among the busiest of the year, airport officials said this week.

Overall, the airlines have roughly 9% more seats in the local market than they did in September 2019 – a record year for the airport and one that predates the opening of the new passenger terminal.

“The demand is there,” said airport director Brian Ellestad.

With more room for passengers and planes, airport officials earlier this month attended an airline conference to meet with several carriers, including Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, United, Southern and Southwest.

Ellestad said the airlines that current serve Missoula have been pleased with their performance. That could lead to expanded service next year, and the airport now has room to accomodate it.

“Everyone is very pleased with their service this summer, so I’d expect some slight increases,” Ellestad said.

While the pandemic slowed the demand for air service, it has since returned. But in recent years, even as passenger counts swelled to year-over-year record numbers in Missoula, the airport was reluctant to add more service due to a lack of room.

But the new South Concourse opened earlier this year, offering more room than was available in the old terminal. And with the next phase of construction underway, the airport is looking to the future and landing new routes.

Ellestad said local airport officials will also attend a fall airline conference in Alabama to meet with different airlines.

“Even with our increase in fall seats, we are seeing full airplanes depart,” he said.