KALISPELL — It was a banner year in 2021 for passenger travel at Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell.
"Our record year ever was 2019, and 2021 beat 2019 by 17%, so it’s pretty significant, we had a really strong year,” Glacier Park International Airport Director Rob Ratkowski told MTN News.
Glacier Park International Airport became the second busiest airport in the state with 826,096 total enplanements and deplanements, moving ahead of both airports in Missoula and Billings while only trailing Bozeman.
“This is the first time we’ve been better than number four in the state, we typically sit about number four,” added Ratkowski.
Ratkowski said the airport added several new flights in 2021 accommodating the influx of new residents in the Flathead Valley.
He said the airport was busiest in the summer months, as tourist traveled in droves to Glacier National Park.
“International travel can be tricky right now and so we think a lot of people just kind of stayed in the U.S. and traveled here,” said Ratkowski.
He said the airport’s terminal expansion project couldn’t come at a better time as it will nearly triple the current square footage of the airport to almost 200,000 square feet.
“Basically, we worked really hard all summer to get the basement done and steel started to come out of the ground just here probably two months ago, before the first of the year, and so people when they come to the airport can see that framework starting for our new hold room on the west side of the building so that’s really exciting,” added Ratkowski.
He said travelers will really notice the expansion project this summer when construction comes inside the building.
“So, the configuration of the airport is going to change a lot, it’s going to look very different and feel very different, for one summer it’s really going to feel like we have a construction project going in the building so, we’re asking for people’s patience on that and just bare with us as we do the hard work this summer,” added Ratkowski.
Ratkowski said part of the new building will open in spring of 2023 with all phases of the project finished the following year.