BILLINGS — Winter storms during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at airports Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City sent ripple effects to Billings, with most people experiencing delays on arrivals and departures.
"Most everyone was experiencing some delays, typically one to two hours. Based on flight crew availability or nonavailability of flight crews in other parts of the country and just delays on aircraft arriving at the hubs and being able to make it out to other airports like ours," said Shane Ketterling, Billings Logan International Airport Assistant Director of Aviation and Transit on Monday.
In the previous days, Alaska Airlines flights between Billings and Seattle were canceled due to the storms, Ketterling said.
“Hopefully things will be getting back to normal. With the weather clearing up in other locations, people can continue on to their destinations," Ketterling said.
But the people who got the worst of the delays were supposed to fly out of Billings to Mesa, Arizona on Sunday via Allegiant Air, because the plane has been grounded in Billings for mechanical repairs, Ketterling said.
Some people have been stranded in Billings for more than 17 hours, like Arizona college student Triston Jansma and his sister, who traveled to South Dakota to see family for the holidays.
"My dad dropped me off here yesterday. Our flight got delayed a few times we didn't think anything of it, we'll get out late. Then it got canceled. So we were here until 3 a.m. roughly. My sister and I, we got an Uber, went to a hotel room, came back early this morning and got canceled again. We've been here for around 17 hours," Jansma said.
Another stranded passenger said he was hoping to fly out of Billings via Allegiant on Wednesday.
If flying in or out of Billings, remember the federal mask requirement for all airports across the United States is still in effect. Ketterling said it is a daily stress on staff to have to keep reminding people to wear one.
“Please be patient and kind to those you are working with. As you deal with TSA and screening, they’re just doing their job. The flight crews are just trying to keep efficient and keep everything flowing well. So please be kind to the flight crews and anyone you come in contact with,” Ketterling said.
When it comes to end-of-year passenger numbers, 2021 saw far more people boarding planes than 2020, but not quite as many as the record-breaking year of 2019, Ketterling said..
At the end of November, the Billings airport saw about 350,000 passengers go through TSA. Ketterling estimated Billings would hit 400,000 by the end of the year.
Compare that to the record year of 2019, which saw 475,000 people fly out of Billings and 2020 with 248,000.