Interim Missoula County International Airport Director Bryan Ellestad told KGVO News that passenger numbers have been steadily increasing as the COVID 19 pandemic numbers are decreasing.

“Coming out in the winter into the spring we were kind of at 50 percent of 2019 numbers and it slowly kind of ticked up 75 to 85 percent,” he said. “We just got our June numbers, and we're at 95% of our record numbers in 2019. And in July, I see we’ll exceed those 2019 numbers. So yeah, people are traveling again.”

Ellestad said the airlines that serve Missoula are having the same problems that all other businesses and industries are facing, a shortage of workers.

“It's a tight labor industry right now,” he said. “United and Delta have a ground handler called Unified and they're constantly trying to hire and get people on,” he said. “So they've been taking some delays. They're trying to hire. They have a lot of good people here on staff. They're working hard, the ones that are here, and they continue to try and beef up their staffing.”

Ellestad described the progress on the new terminal building and baggage areas.

“So this is Phase One,” he said. “Phase one would be new ticket counters, new checkpoint and four more gates, and then a temporary construction gate and a temporary baggage claim will be that first phase. And then if things fall correctly, like we hope it will, we'll knock down this current building, and then build four more gates, have permanent baggage claim and rental car offices. So basically, the footprint will double. It will be a mirror image of what that first phase is up front.”

Ellestad said the official ceremony for the over $67 million Phase One is planned for next February.

“Everything appears to be going on schedule, we still hope to be open March or April of next year,” he said. “We definitely want to finish before summer of 2022. But we'll have an official ribbon cutting on 2/22/2022 for our elected officials so we can get on their calendar and get them here. We’ll have lots of commissioning to do after that and then hopefully open our doors before summer.”

The budget for Phase Two is still being worked out, but preliminary estimates are at approximately $40 million.


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