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Missoula airport eyes next year’s service, watching legislation in Washington, D.C.

Alaska Airlines MSO
Posted at 10:13 AM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 12:13:23-04

MISSOULA — The passenger count at Missoula Montana Airport reached pre-pandemic numbers in August, completing a comeback from the prior year when the number of customers could be counted with two digits.

As the busy summer season comes to a close, airport officials on Tuesday said they’re conducting annual meetings with a number of carriers to discuss next year’s schedule, including Allegiant, Delta, Alaska, Southwest, Sun Country and United.

“The major theme is that airlines have aircraft but are limited by a pilot shortage,” said airport director Brian Ellestad. “We will probably see a slight decrease in service going into the fall as they hire and train additional staff. I would expect our seat counts for next summer to be similar to what we had this summer or slight increases.”

Ellestad and deputy airport director Tim Damrow were scheduled to meet with Allegiant again on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

“At the meeting they give an update on their business and what to expect going forward, followed by one-on-one meetings where we discuss each of our markets and talk future service,” Ellestad said.

While airport officials look to next year’s service, they’re also keeping tabs on Washington, D.C., where a number of issues remain in flux.

The major infrastructure bill passed by the Senate remains on the table before the House. The FY22 budget and a potential government shutdown are also in limbo. Add it up and it creates an unpredictable environment at the airport as it eyes its own finances and operations.

“We’re waiting with bated breath to see what Washington is doing,” Ellestad said. “Hopefully, we’ll have some good updates here at the end of the week, but we’re holding our breath.”