The new passenger terminal at Missoula Montana Airport began operations on Wednesday, capping several years of construction that endured a global pandemic.

The project kicked off in 2019 with the razing of the old terminal's western wing and took nearly three years to complete. Airport officials believe it will elevate the passenger experience to and from Missoula.

“The terminal expansion was designed with the passenger experience in mind,” said deputy airport director Tim Damrow. “We are proud to offer a beautiful, welcoming space for travelers to depart or arrive in Missoula.”

Wednesday's inaugural departures.
Wednesday's inaugural departures.

The new terminal spans three floors and includes the latest in technology, including improved Wi-fi and energy efficient upgrades. At 60,000 square feet, it also offers more room for passengers with four holding rooms.

On the tarmac, aircraft will have an open gate upon arrival instead of waiting for another aircraft to depart. The new south concourse offers four jet bridges, along with ground boarding.

“Today is a culmination of years of hard work and great partnerships. We are incredibly grateful for the collaboration at federal, state and local levels supporting Team MSO through this project,” airport director Brian Ellestad said in a statement.

The project was funded by a number of sources including $30 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration, and $36 million in local financing.

Ellestad said the project had no impact on local taxes and is expected to come in under budget.

With the new terminal now operational, the airport will shift construction to the east concourse, starting with demolition of the old terminal. Once finished, that segment will include a number of additional gates, baggage claim and car rental.

It's expected to open during the summer of 2025.

“Missoula is an attractive destination for visitors and a great place to call home for local residents,” Damrow said. “Our airport terminal is an excellent reflection of that.”