Missoula airport lobbies for air service enhancement bill

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

The Missoula International Airport is keeping close tabs on two bills tied up in the Legislature, one that would enhance local air service and another that would tax aviation fuel.

Both bills are fighting an uphill climb.

Airport director Cris Jensen said Missoula International joined other airports in the state to support House Bill 408. The measure would enhance air service development by helping airports provide the revenue guarantees needed to land new routes or expand service.

The bill remains tabled in the House Taxation Committee.

“It proposed to increase the tax on a rental car contract from 4 percent to 5 percent, resulting in around $800,000 that could be used to fund revenue guarantees,” Jensen said. “There has been some discussion about trying to revive the bill. We’ll continue to watch that and, of course, we’re supportive of that.”

Missoula competes with other airports in the state and the region when asking airlines to add new routes and expand those already in service.

Supporters argue that more service options and increased competition among airlines is good for both business and leisure travelers, as it often impacts ticket prices.

“Airports across the state are working with their communities to increase passenger service by adding to the number of airlines, and by working with existing carriers to expand existing routes,” Jensen said. “Air service development is a competitive process, and Montana airports have to compete with airports across the country for new or expanded service.”

While Missoula International supports HB 408, it opposes a separate bill sponsored by Rep. Willis Curdy, D-Missoula. As written, HB 608 would increase the tax on aviation fuel by 2 cents per gallon to fund smaller airports in the state.

The bill was opposed by all general service airports, as well as airline representatives. The bill appears to have died in committee, Jensen said.

“The airlines were definitely opposed to that, because it would increase their cost to operate in the state of Montana,” said Jensen. “Last year, we had about 1.8 million gallons of fuel, both aviation gas and jet fuel, so it could be a substantial amount of money.”

 

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com