MISSOULA — The number of passengers passing through the Missoula Montana airport in 2021 has increased significantly from the previous year, when the pandemic put a damper on travel.
However, the numbers fell just short of 2019, which was a banner year for the airport. Ultimately, airport officials believe 2022 will see a return to normal, barring unforeseen events.
“We expect 2022 to be a banner year,” said airport manager Brian Ellestad.
Last year, more than 766,000 passengers passed through the airport. This was up 81% from the previous year, but still 15% lower than 2019.
The virtual return to normal in passenger numbers has filled departing planes, with load factors reaching 85% and more. It’s a good sign for the carriers that serve Missoula and the city’s efforts to continue to expand service.
“Our load factors are incredibly high,” Ellestad said. “We have carriers in load factor rates of 90% to 95%. We have never seen such high load factors. Our market demands more seats.
Ellestad said early 2022 will likely see fewer seats available in the Missoula market, largely due to a national pilot shortage. However, he said, the number of seats will increase as spring approaches.
Some airlines are still finalizing their summer schedule.
“Looking towards 2022, we’re starting the year down slightly in seats from 2019, but we quickly move past that once the end of spring rolls around and we’re net positive for the summer,” he said. declared.
Ellestad said the airport’s deputy manager, Tim Damrow, recently attended an air services conference where he met with nine different airlines.
“It was all good feedback,” Ellestad said. “We’re going to start coming back to more air service conferences.”