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New destination available for Montana air travelers

Published On: Feb 14 2013 10:11:48 PM MST   Updated On: Feb 15 2013 05:41:02 AM MST

Delta announced it’s adding a direct flight from Missoula to Atlanta. The news comes as the Missoula International Airport announces its setting new passenger records.

Last year almost 605,000 passengers used the airport; that’s an all-time record.  

And just last month alone 38,500 passengers used the airports; that’s a three-percent increase from one year ago, another record.  

Thursday afternoon NBC Montana caught up with airport officials to find out what the new nonstop flight means for travelers.  

"Atlanta is the largest airport in the United States and, in fact, one of the largest in the world,” said airport director Cris Jensen.  “It offers many connections that we probably don't have today both domestically and internationally."

Jensen says he's thrilled to add Atlanta to the list of what are now twelve direct destinations from Missoula.

"It gives business travelers the opportunity to go all over the country and all over the world,” said Jensen.  “For leisure travelers it’s lots of opportunities to go to South America, the Caribbean and places like that so it should be a flight that I think our community will support."

The Destination Missoula organization aims to attract tourists to Missoula.  Executive Director Barbara Neilan says the added flights will be a helpful boost.

"Getting in here is getting much easier which then makes it more conducive for groups to want to fly into Missoula and to take the chance on coming up here,” said Neilan.

According to Destination Missoula, in 2011 tourists spent $280 million in Missoula County alone.  Neilan says adding flights like this will bring in more commerce.

"It really is one of those hub points that bring people in from all over so it’s very exciting to add another nonstop,” said Neilan.  

Jensen says airport officials are always trying to increase the number of destinations Montanan's can travel to and he says adding Atlanta is a huge step.

"This will literally allow you to go just about anywhere in the world,” said Jensen.  

Jensen adds that the airport also is working on adding more budget flights because Frontier Airlines just announced it will not be adding a route into Missoula.  

The Saturday flights begin in June.