MISSOULA – Recently published data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that Missoula had the lowest airfares in Montana for the last three months of 2018.
The average airfare dropped 11 percent from $456 in the fourth quarter of 2017 to $406 in the fourth quarter of 2018 — resulting in direct savings to passengers of over $5 million according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Missoula International Airport Director Cris Jensen says the drop in airfares boils it down to one main factor.
“Competition is the best strategy we have to help lower the cost of travel, and what we’ve seen now with American entering our market that, in fact, our fares have gone down,” Jensen said.
It’s the second full quarter that American Airlines has served the market and during that period, prices have decreased dramatically according to Jensen.
The airline has opened up the doors with direct flights to major hubs including Chicago and Dallas.
“A lot of our community benefits — not just for the lower airfares, and the ability to fly for business or personal reasons — but the fact that we have a lot of visitors, tourists that are now coming into western Montana through Missoula,” Jensen said.
Passenger traffic has increased and that trend looks to continue thanks to a new airline in town and ticket prices dropping.
“Last year was a record year by far and I think this year over last year we’re still 17.8 percent currently more passengers to date in the first three months of 2019 than we saw last year,” Jensen told MTN News.
Seat projections for the year are also currently up by 8 percent.
Thanks to the growth in competition in recent years, Jensen says the biggest benefit for those in the community might be not having to travel elsewhere for cheaper flights.
“You know, there is a lot of opportunities and now with six airlines in the market, we think we’re getting more and more competitive all the time and we encourage people to use the local service we have here,” Jensen said.
During the fourth quarter of 2018 more than 103,000 passengers passed through the Missoula International Airport.
-Russ Thomas reporting for MTN News