BILLINGS — The schedule for air travel from Denver to Billings will return to normal Tuesday after a weekend snowstorm forced the Denver International Airport to close for 24 hours, said Kevin Ploehn, director of aviation and transit at the Billings Logan International Airport.
Ploehn said many people who flew out of Billings last week for Denver were delayed and diverted to Seattle or Minneapolis.
"It was a little bit of a cluster trying to get back for some people, especially if they were going through Denver. But if they were going through the other markets, they probably didn't have that much trouble. We had some pretty good numbers over the weekend," Ploehn said.
About eight flights going between Billings and Denver were canceled due to the storm, Ploehn said. Flights out of Denver to Billings started up again at 2 p.m. Monday.
“It’s a little challenging, especially when you are shut down for a whole day. I would assume the plane coming in tonight might be pretty empty just so they can board passengers tomorrow morning to get people out of Billings. We’ve got spring break in the works here, so everybody is trying to go someplace right now," Ploehn said.
Over the weekend, ground crews in Denver had trouble de-icing the airplanes, with snow accumulating on one wing in the time it would take to clear the other.
"It got really nasty down there and that’s why they decided to close her down. It just wasn’t safe. People were getting stranded on the highway. I heard they had to have snow cats go out and pick up people,” Ploehn said.
Ploehn said he didn't hear of anyone stranded in Billings without a flight to Denver over the weekend. He said the airlines got the word out about the storm early to passengers, so people didn't drive to Billings and get stranded without a flight to Denver.
"With a storm of that size coming in, the airlines do a pretty good job of getting on the phone and getting ahold of people and saying, 'your flight is going to be canceled, we need to rebook you just because of the storm.' I think that they’ve learned over the years that it works a lot better than a whole bunch of people standing at your counter," Ploehn said.
Minus the recent snowstorm, Ploehn said passenger numbers are trending better this year compared to 2020. Between the long period of isolation with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the week-long spring break for Billings School District 2 students, more people are flying again this year.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for travel and I think we’re seeing it this spring here. This weekend was the first time in a year where we’ve seen our long-term lot almost full. It was very exciting to see that. I think the demand is there. People are starting to get vaccinated and have a little less concern about the disease," Ploehn said.