Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) While the number of passengers flying from Missoula Montana Airport were up nearly 6% in May, airport officials expect those numbers to climb over the next two months.

Airlines that serve the airport are now operating their summer schedule, which includes more flights and a greater number of seats.

“In July, we're up 26% in seats,” said airport director Brian Ellestad. “Hopefully we'll hit more than double digits for all of June and July.”

Alaska Airlines is now offering weekend service to Portland, San Diego and San Francisco, and Delta added a midday flight to Minneapolis. Ellestad said American Airlines will also add a second daily flight to Dallas.

“Now that we've hit our summer stride, I would expect some double-digit increases going forward,” Ellestad said. “We're on course to be up around 8% year-over-year at this point.”

With Phase 1 of the new passenger terminal open and Phase 2 under way, the airport is looking to add new service. Airport officials have traveled to a number of national conferences in recent weeks to court new airlines and new routes.

Ellestad said the meetings have gone well and new service could be in store next year.

“We met with seven different airlines, all good conversations, which we hope leads to increased service next year,” Ellestad said, adding that additional meetings are planned this fall.

The airport, with Missoula Economic Partnership and Destination Missoula, are looking to package an air service grant to help bring new service. It used a similar grant in 2018 to bring American Airlines into the market with service to Dallas/Fort Worth.

If another revenue guarantee is offered, the airport hasn't said what market it's looking to add. In the past, airport officials have mentioned places like New York, Nashville or Boston. It currently has a contract with Ailevon Pacific to help develop additional air service.

Ellestad said 46 airports applied for a Small Community Air Service Grant this year totaling more than $34 million. The grant had just $15 million available.

“Of the 46 airports that applied this year, Kallispell put in an application to try and get American to Dallas year-round and Billings' application is requesting Los Angeles or San Francisco routes,” Ellestad said. “I would potentially like to apply next year and look forward to working with the community on a target market.”

Missoula currently has service to Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Deputy Airport Director Tim Damrow said the second phase of the passenger terminal is advancing. Once finished, the project will add two or three more gates to airport, along with additional passenger amenities.

“Most of the basement walls have been poured,” he said. “We expect steel to start showing up in early August.”

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