Glacier airport set to increase flight capacity to major cities


KALISPELL, Mont. - After a record-breaking year Glacier Park International Airport is announcing more seating on flights to major cities starting this year.

United Airways is increasing seating on flights to Chicago 83 percent, seating on flights to Denver by 17 percent and will offer daily flights to San Francisco from July to Sept. 5.

Airport director Robert Ratkowski told us United Airways made the decision based on the tourism boom experienced throughout the county.

At Glacier Park International Airport they've broken visitation records each year for the past five years.

Now airlines like United are starting to take notice of a booming economy.

"They've been evaluating the market and watching local activity. Increased visitation in the park, for example, and also their booking demand," Ratkowski said.

United's booking numbers show from 2015 to 2016 United saw over a 20-percent increase on all airline activity. That's what prompted their decision to increase this summer.

Ratkowski has been the full-time director at Glacier International for only two months. He says he realizes the importance an airport plays in a local economy.

"We also bring in high value travelers. People who travel by air typically spend more per capita at their destination then people who come in by other modes of transportation," Ratkowski said.

Just down the road from the airport at Cislo's Diner they've seen significant increases in business.

"It's definitely picked up a lot. Probably about 20 percent," Cislo's owner Brett Cislo said.

Cislo says the airport and tourism have played a significant role in keeping his business up and running for 30 years. He's excited to hear more passengers are on the way.

"That's good because we get a lot of people stopping in after they get off the plane and before they go to the plane. So we get quite a bit of business from the airport," Cislo said.

To give you an idea of the tourism boom in Flathead County, Glacier National Park saw over 600,000 more people in 2016 compared to 2015.?