-Martin Kidston reporting for the Missoula Cuurent
Airfares from Missoula remained the lowest in Montana through the first quarter of 2019 and continued to close on the national average price for a ticket, according to federal statistics released last month.
The data marked a good week for Missoula International Airport, which also achieved a perfect inspection from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“It’s a big deal,” said airport director Cris Jensen. “In the airport world, it’s a pretty rare occurrence. In my almost 30-year career, it’s only the second perfect inspection I’ve been a part of. We have a very well run airport and a dedicated staff that does an amazing job.”
The Missoula airport has set record passenger counts in each of the last several years, including last year’s increase of nearly 15 percent. So far this year, the airport is up 8.5 percent in seat capacity over last year, though that’s expected to level out.
Deputy director Brian Ellestad said increased competition from major carriers serving the Missoula market continues to drive down ticket prices.
“Again, we’re the lowest in the state in fares, and I’ve never seen us this close to the average national fare,” he said.
According to first quarter statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, the average fare from Missoula fell to $386.89. That’s well below other Montana cities, including Bozeman at $440.73; Helena at $482.58; and Butte at $533.37.
The average fare from Spokane was $351.62 in the first quarter. The national average was $352 in the first quarter.
“Right now, things are looking good,” Ellestad said. “Not to say we don’t get complaints about the airfare, but on average, we’re very competitive.”