The number of passengers at Missoula Montana Airport reached pre-pandemic numbers in August, ending a comeback from the previous year when the number of customers was in double digits.
As the busy summer season draws to a close, airport officials announced on Tuesday that they are holding annual meetings with a number of airlines to discuss next year’s schedule, including Allegiant, Delta, Alaska, Southwest, Sun Country and United.
“The main issue is that airlines have planes but are constrained by a lack of pilots,” said airport director Brian Ellestad. “We’ll likely see a slight decrease in service by the fall as more staff are hired and trained. I would expect our seat numbers for next summer to be similar to this summer or to increase slightly. “
Ellestad and assistant airport director Tim Damrow were due to meet with Allegiant again on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
“At the meeting they provide an update on their business and what to expect in the future, followed by one-on-one meetings where we discuss each of our markets and talk about future services,” said Ellestad.
As airport officials look to the service for the next year, they are also keeping an eye on Washington, DC, where a number of issues remain in flux.
The major infrastructure bill passed by the Senate remains on the table in front of the House of Representatives. The budget for FY22 and a possible government shutdown are also pending. Add it up and it creates an unpredictable environment at the airport as it keeps track of its own finances and operations.
“We’ll wait with bated breath to see what Washington does,” Ellestad said. “Hopefully there’ll be some good updates here by the end of the week, but we’re holding our breath.”