Montana airports see flight increases

    New airlines added to some Montana airports. (NBC Montana Photo) <p>{/p}<p>{/p}

    Over the last decade, some of Montana's larger airports have added new flights or extended certain flight services. The increased traffic is even causing some airports to expand.

    Since Glacier Park International Airport director Rob Ratkowski started in 2004, the number of direct flights has gone from just four to 11.

    He thinks the area has something to do with the increase.

    "Look where we live,” said Ratkowski. “It's an attractive area, and people have kind of discovered Kalispell. A lot of our local convention and visitors bureaus and our state tourism folks have done a really good job at marketing Montana."

    Starting this summer two more flight destinations will be added -- Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth. American Airlines will operate the new flights, which means the number of airlines will go from four to five.

    "We will be well represented,” Ratkowski told NBC Montana. “We will have all the major carriers here once American starts."

    Not only is Glacier Park International Airport seeing growth and more flights, but so are other airports across the state.

    Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport added seven direct flights in the last 10 years.

    Missoula has added eight cities with direct flights since 2007 as well as two new airlines.

    All of the airports report plenty of passenger growth, which means they need to keep growing.

    "Over the time span we've been doing this master plan, we are seeing huge growth and definitely accelerated and made the need for the project obvious and pretty high priority," Ratkowski said.

    The expansion will make room for more takeoffs from an airport that, not even 20 years ago, only had four direct flights.

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