By Martin Kidston
While the Missoula International Airport works to negotiate nonstop service to Texas, the Missoula Air Service Task Force continues to build a revenue guarantee that could be used to expand air service to other major U.S. hubs.
A number of local businesses have already contributed incentive packages to the effort, including Holland Lake Lodge, the Triple Creek Ranch and the Montana Winery. Businesses that invest in the revenue guarantee receive an incentive based on their level of investment.
“The task force has been working on a revenue guarantee for the past 18 months to provide direct flights to major hubs across the U.S., and to lower the cost of airfare in Missoula,” said Jenn Ewan, vice president of the Missoula Economic Partnership. “Every organization or person who flies into Missoula likes what we’re doing. It’s been the most positive response we’ve seen.”
The upstart revenue guarantee continues an effort launched year to connect Missoula with routes in the nation’s southeast via nonstop service to Texas.
After an unsuccessful first attempt, Missoula International Airport in June landed a $600,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant. Local businesses also invested $400,000 to match last year. The package is valued at $1.2 million when in-kind services from the airport are included.
The pool of funding will enabled airport officials to negotiate with either United or American airlines to provide nonstop service between Missoula and Texas, either to Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston.
“As far as the Texas guarantee, we got the Small Community Air Service Development grant, and the money for that grant has been raised,” said Brian Ellestad, deputy director of the Missoula airport. “It’s now a matter of working with either United or American.”
Ellestad said airport officials will likely meet with the carriers this fall after the summer travel season winds down. American launched nonstop service between Bozeman and Dallas/Forth Worth in January after that city put together a similar revenue guarantee.
The guarantees cover any loss incurred by the airlines if the flights don’t fill with a set number of passengers. Without such guarantees, small and mid-sized cities like Missoula would struggle to expand air service.
The current effort underway by MEP and the Missoula Air Service Task Force would establish a revenue guarantee for subsequent years. The pool of funding could be used to establish year-round service to certain markets served seasonally from Missoula, or to establish new routes to other U.S. hubs.
“The goal after this year is $1 million in annual contributions to build on those flights,” said Ewan. “If we fill the flights, you can take that same pot of money and maybe go after direct to New York City or some other major hub.”
For additional information on the program, contact Paige Pavalone at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 570-242-0081.
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at email@example.com