MISSOULA — We checked in with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston to learn some more about several recent changes at Missoula’s airport – including a new name.
“The Missoula County Airport Authority on Tuesday agreed to rebrand the airport, including the name. They dropped Missoula International Airport -- dropped the international -- and went with Missoula, Montana Airport,” Kidston said. “The thinking is that it would help with Google searches as they get ready to reopen the airport's new passenger terminal next year.
The airport also officially named a new director...but it’s a familiar name.
“He's not a new director. He's Brian Ellestad, who has been with the airport about 16 years as Deputy Director and with the departure of Chris Jensen as director earlier this year, Ellestad has been appointed the new director,” Kidston explained “He's pretty excited about that, and the airport will begin the search for a new deputy director in the coming months.”
There has been a lot going on at the airport with construction and some new facilities as well.
‘There was actually talk about opening up the new airport on two, two, 22, February 2nd, 2022. I don't know if they are on that timeline at this point in time, but they do plan to open the new facility early next year,” Kidston said. “This is phase one of what is intended to be a two-phase project.
“This gives the airport five gates, new security, a streamlined check-through process. Early next year they will be talking about phase two, which will add three or four more passenger gates, take down what's left of the airport, and create one seamless Missoula airport, which is seeing pretty phenomenal passenger growth, at least prior to the pandemic.”
Airport officials are optimistic that they are getting back to normal, at least with passenger totals.
“The numbers for July were pretty much the same as the numbers from July before the pandemic. Passengers counts are returning to normal. They're entering a seasonal slowdown, because of the weather, so those numbers will begin to recede naturally, as airlines begin to pull back and start to look at new routes,” Kidston explained.
“Prior to the pandemic the airport had more than 900,000 passengers and they now have more seats in the market now than they did at the time, meaning there is room for more passengers because of more flights and bigger airplanes,” he continued. “If next year is a normal year, the airport could return to new passenger records.”
There has been no word on new flights or destinations for Missoula travelers at this point.
“Nothing firm. They meet with the airlines in a couple of weeks. That's when those announcements typically get discussed and made,” Kidston explained. “Maybe to places like Phoenix or Nashville even, so I think it's too soon to say where the next routes might be.”