Montana Access by Air

March 14, 2019 MEDIA CONTACT: DAX SCHIEFFER
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 406-539-1026 – dax @voicesoftourism.com

Flying in and out of Montana easier than ever
New airlines, new routes and more seats increase enplanements 32% in five years

HELENA, MT – Air access to major markets is a critical factor for economic development and Montana has added over 500,000 enplanements in five years with a record 2.2 million passengers in 2018. This growth supports nearly every sector of Montana’s economy with tourism, gas and oil, new business development and technology company growth. More convenient flights also improve access and lower costs for Montanans who travel for leisure or business.

Remarkably, this growth in air access is taking place in one of the most remote areas in the contiguous United States. Geographically, Montana is the furthest area from major urban markets. This distance increases costs in fuel to travel longer and adds time to flights limiting efficiency for airlines to maximize trips in a day per plane, creating a strategic disadvantage relative to other remote airports competing for new service.

Several ingredients contribute to attracting new airlines and encouraging existing airlines to add routes to new cities and increasing seats per plane. The first component starts with effective promotions to put Montana at the top of desirable destinations to visit for potential travelers. Second, airlines like to minimize risk and are attracted when communities can form public/private partnerships to provide revenue guarantees to develop new travel markets. The added bonus for these arrangements can be targeted marketing campaigns in those new markets that supports the first need.

Expenses are a major factor for airlines consideration and Montana airports have kept airline costs low to incentivize airlines to maintain and consider new service. Airports can keep airline costs low with on time arrivals and departures with adequate gate and luggage systems and modern air traffic control technologies. Another incentive includes a $.02 rebate applied to the $.04 aviation fuel tax that helps when airlines consider market opportunities for limited resources throughout the nation. Without these incentives, other states may become more attractive than Montana for new service.

“While Montana has a lot of momentum in growing air access, it’s important to recognize success is not by accident and we are always competing with other markets in the country when trying to negotiate with airlines,” said Dax Schieffer, Voices of Montana Tourism Director. “A downturn in capacity of seats in and out of Montana would not only make travel less convenient, it could also increase costs for Montanans to fly as less competition would predictably raise fares. It was recently reported that when American Airlines entered the Missoula market, travelers saved $2.8 million in fares in the third quarter of 2018.”

Voices of Montana Tourism serves as a united voice for Montana’s tourism stakeholders. Since its creation in 2011, Voices has led the effort with education and outreach to communicate the immense value a sustainably-grown tourism industry provides for all Montanans.
###