The airport has been so busy this summer!
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on pace for record year
By Juliana Sukut Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer Oct 14, 2021
Despite a rocky start to 2021, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is days away from beating its record for most travelers in a calendar year.
The airport previously set a record in 2019 for the most passengers, then beating its own records for the 10th consecutive year. That changed in 2020, when the airport saw its traffic cut by almost 50% due to the pandemic.But this year, the airport has been busy. Really busy.The airport has already seen more passengers in the past 12 months than in any previous 12-month period.Through September, about 1.5 million passengers flew through the airport. The airport’s previous record, set in 2019, saw about 1.57 million total passengers.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve already surpassed that total,” Airport Director Brian Sprenger said on Thursday. “We probably have just, within the last couple of days, surpassed year-to-date what we did in all of 2019.”
Sprenger said that beating the record came as no surprise, especially after the addition of Southwest Airlines to the airport in May.“I think this would have been surprising a year ago,” Sprenger said.
Southwest Airlines, which began flights out of Bozeman in May, was the ninth airline to fly in and out of Bozeman and the fourth major airline added to the state’s largest and busiest airport.The bump in traffic from Southwest flights will probably be felt until next summer, Sprenger said.
This year, all nine airlines have also added more seasonal flights to several locations across the nation, like Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco, California, Washington D.C. and Chicago, Sprenger said.
Sprenger said he expects the airport’s growth to stabilize by early summer 2022 but remain at high levels.Despite a lull in airport traffic in 2020 due to the pandemic (the airport saw a 43.5% drop in passengers from 2019) the airport did complete several expansion projects in time for the 2021 traffic boom.
Last November, the airport opened a 70,000 square foot concourse, which added a new restaurant and bar and more space for vendors and amenities.The expansion cost upward of $26.5 million and added five gates to the airport.
With this year of growth, Sprenger said the airport is always looking at areas that need improvement or expansion.The airport plans to break ground on a general aviation project on the north side of the airport at the end of October and also plans to work on a new baggage system in early 2022.
Bozeman’s success wasn’t seen throughout the country. Overall, air travel traffic still hasn’t reached levels seen prior to the pandemic, according to data released on Sept. 20 from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.National traffic in June was up from 2020, but down 20% from 2019.
“There are some airports in the country that are still struggling, and some like us that are stronger than ever,” Sprenger said.
Bozeman and the Yellowstone area have been hot travel destinations this year. Hotels have been booked out this summer. Good luck finding a rental car. Headlines about travel, real estate and the draw of Bozeman to remote workers have abounded in national media outlets.And if you need more proof than the 5 p.m. traffic on 19th Avenue that its been busy: Wednesday brought the news that Yellowstone National Park topped its annual visitation record.
So far, the park has counted more than 4.4 million recreation visits so far, beating out 2016 numbers by about 200,000 visits.
While the shoulder season may slow some airport traffic down before another uptick in holiday travel, bustling Bozeman may be the new norm.
“We’ve got a wonderful draw for people wanting to come to Montana,” Sprenger said. “Our community has grown substantially.”