A ray of light from Yellowstone International Airport – new direct flights announced amid growing traveler numbers.
Bozeman airport announces seasonal direct flights to Austin, Oakland, San Diego
By Melissa Loveridge Bozeman Daily Chronicle 2/9/2021
The Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport announced its first three new direct flights for 2021 on Tuesday, to Oakland, San Diego and Austin.
The Allegiant flights are scheduled for twice weekly summer seasonal service for now, though Airport Director Brian Sprenger said that popular seasonal service sometimes expands to multi-season or even year-round, as was the case with a Nashville flight in 2020.
“It might just be a summer service, or it could extend if it becomes something very desirable,” Sprenger said.
Flights to Austin begin on May 27, Oakland on May 28, and San Diego on June 3. The flights are scheduled to run twice a week through August.
San Diego was a big get for the airport, Sprenger said.
“San Diego was basically the next airport on our list,” he said. “It was the number one market without nonstop service to Bozeman.”
The direct flight to Oakland will strengthen the airport’s presence in the Bay Area, Sprenger said, and the direct flight to Austin will connect Bozeman to the tech and music scene there. Both were on the airport’s list of nonstop flights it wanted to offer, though Austin was further down on the list.
“On the reverse side, there’s a lot of interest in Texas in general about Montana, and so I think it is certainly more of a rising market,” Sprenger said.
“We’re pretty happy that we’re able to see it sooner than even we expected.”
The airport’s passenger numbers have been slowly but steadily climbing since the massive drop at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The traffic has remained higher than the national average for the duration of the pandemic, Sprenger said.
“In December, we were operating at about 55% of normal, and in January we were operating at about 65% of normal,” he said.
Even in normal years, traffic drops in November and early December because it’s the off-season for tourism travel. Yellowstone National Park entrances are closed or open for only oversnow travel, and ski resorts are either closed or just beginning to open during that time.
“As we got into ski season, particularly late December and January, we’re seeing a little bit closer to what we were seeing back in late August and September,” Sprenger said.
While the airport doesn’t plan to announce any new direct flights in the immediate future, Sprenger said those announcements come very quickly and that there will likely be more coming in 2021.
“We are constantly talking with all the airlines across the country and obviously we try to make sure we’re enlightening them about our market, but essentially once we do that then we kind of have to sit back and wait until they feel like the market is right,” he said. “In this particular case, we didn’t even know about Austin until late last night.”