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Missoula airport officials hope to bring in new airline

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Jan 09 2013 10:17:27 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 09 2013 10:18:22 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

NBC Montana has good news for Montana travelers.  Airport officials tell us they're trying to get another airline in Missoula.  That's after Frontier airlines put Missoula's International Airport on their shortlist for destinations.

James Grunke, president of Missoula Economic Partnership, says he knows if Missoula brings in a low-cost carrier like Frontier airline fees would notably drop.

“We would expect to see a reduction of 20 to 30 percent by them entering into the market,” said Grunke. 

He says Missoula Economic Partnership hopes a "very competitive" incentive package will help the city reel in a new airline carrier.  The current package includes a revenue guarantee that shows carriers the city is willing to invest money in the airlines and airports success.

“We’re in a market place today where the airlines want to share the risk,” said Grunke.  “Say we're going to go to the market, we're going to want some assurances that were not going to lose money.”

Missoula International Airport Director Cris Jensen says airport officials are not just limiting themselves to new carriers; they're working with current airlines at the airport to see what other sorts of deals can be offered.

“We think we have good service but the cost is one of the things that we hear about most,” said Jensen.  “Generally what helps with cost is competition and so we’re obviously interested in doing what we can to foster competition here.” 

Jensen says there are a few key strategies in getting a new airline carrier and keeping it.

“If we're able to get a new carrier in here and people aren't getting on that airplane, ultimately that airline is going to make the economic decision to move that airplane to some other location where they can make money,” said Jensen. 

“We need to have the community step up and not only say this is where we want to go and who our preferred carrier is but we need to be able to communicate that,” said Grunke.  

Grunke says he's hopeful a low cost airline like Frontier will settle into Missoula.

“Whether it’s this airline or another one we’re going to continue our efforts until we succeed,” said Grunke.  “That means getting lower fares in and out of this market, that's our goal.”

Grunke says people can contact Missoula Economic Partnership or the Missoula International Airport to voice where they would like to be able to fly too.

NBC Montana will continue to follow this story and bring you new details as we learn more.