Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) As the new passenger terminal at the Missoula airport nears its one-year anniversary, the project's second phase is taking shape, just as the airport eyes additional service.

Airport officials this month hosted an air service conference in Missoula, which was attended by nine different carriers and officials from 20 U.S. airports. The event gave airport officials a chance to showcase the best of Missoula in hopes of landing new service.

“It was very well attended,” said airport director Brian Ellestad. “We did a lot of route talking at this one.”

The event, sponsored by Destination Missoula and Glacier Country, gives airports the chance to meet airline representatives and pitch proposals for new service. Local airport officials plan to attend another conference in Milwaukee next month.

In the past, such events have helped land new service and the West Coast is now well-covered with nonstop service from Missoula. Ideally, airport officials have said they'd like to add service to the East Coast, including New York.

“We have seven meetings lined up with existing and potential new (carriers),” Ellestad said. “Later in the fall, we'll host our Montana rendezvous, where all the state airports come together and have one-on-one meetings with our airline partners.”

Room to Grow

The airport opened its new passenger terminal last June. The $75 million project gave the facility more room to accommodate both passengers and aircraft.

Ellestad said the new terminal handled around 1,100 daily departures during the winter season. But that figure is set to double to 2,200 passengers this summer. With the B Concourse now under construction, the $42 million addition will bring the airport's number of gates to eight.

“The B Concourse will have four parking positions. The first two are jet bridges and the third and fourth will be ground-boarding gates once we do Phase 3. The fourth one is sized for a (regional) aircraft. But we'd like to have all four of them sized for mainline aircraft for added versatility down the road.”

Ellestad said the airport will also expand the ramp to accommodate a ninth aircraft overnight.

The airport's gate configuration once Phase 2 is finished. The airport is also expanding its deicing ramp.
The airport's gate configuration once Phase 2 is finished. The airport is also expanding its deicing ramp.

“Due to the growth of air service and airlines requesting to remain overnight at the airport, the ideal ramp for the airport would have nine commercial aircraft parking positions,” Ellestad said. “We'll create one additional position by expanding the ramp to the east.”

Phases 2 and 3 are expected to take two years to complete and the airport will lobby for new service during that time. To help, the Missoula County Airport Authority in February approved an agreement with Missoula Economic Partnership and Ailevon Pacific to conduct air service development.

Future conferences could prove fruitful.

“It's really a chance to sell Missoula and why we should see additional service here in at the end of the day,” said deputy airport director Tim Damrow.