Montana Public Radio

Missoula Airport Reports Record-Breaking Passenger Traffic In 2018

Jan 17, 2019

Passenger traffic at Missoula International Airport last year set an all-time record. The airport handled over 848,000 passengers. That’s a 10 percent increase over 2017.

Since 2000 the airport has seen an 85 percent increase in passenger traffic.

Missoula International’s Deputy Director, Brian Ellestad, chalks up the ever-growing passenger traffic to a couple of different factors. For one, increased competition among carriers.

“That’s what American Airlines really brought to our market was another carrier that other carriers try to compete with," Ellestad says. "So United has gone gangbusters, and Delta’s competing as well. There’s a lot of competition driving down airfare."

As demand grows, seasonal carriers are operating for longer periods of time.

And according to Ellestad, Missoula itself is a big part that ever-growing demand.

"We have a pretty strong economy going on right now. It means probably the inbound customers who are discovering Montana and coming here to visit and spending their dollars here.”

The existing airport terminal is showing its age and can no longer keep pace with the ever-growing demand. A multi-million-dollar terminal expansion project is set to begin next month and will take several years to complete. When complete, it will be able to accommodate more passenger gates and planes.

Missoula’s not the only Montana airport experiencing year-over-year growth. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport welcomed more than 1.3 million passengers last year, shattering 2017’s record by almost 12 percent.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Billings Logan International Airport saw a record number of passengers last year with close to a million people arriving and departing.