When it comes to passengers, the Missoula International Airport is on pace for another record year. Airport Director Chris Jensen provides the current numbers.

“Year to date, we are up about 17.4% over last year,” Jensen said. “We have numbers through the first five months and we are definitely on a record pace. If we look at our 12-month rolling number, we are at about 447,500 passengers and our record year last year was 424,836.”

Unfortunately, the high volume of passengers has also caused some significant delays recently. According to Jensen, ground-handling companies had a difficult time keeping pace with inbound flights.

“We are such a seasonal market and we see such a big surge in traffic in the summer time,” Jensen said. “I think under the best of circumstances it can be challenging. It took them a little bit to get in the groove and to be able to handle that surge in traffic, but I feel like we are in a much better place now than we were two to three weeks ago.”

Jensen says ground-handling companies brought in some temporary duty staff to help resolve the problem. The airport is also in the early stage of building a new eight-gate passenger terminal. On Tuesday, the Missoula County Airport Authority approved a $35 million financing package with First Security Bank.

“We are very excited that First Security was selected,” Jensen said. “We had eight different financial institutions that submitted proposals. It is always nice when you get to work with a local firm or institution, or whatever the case may be. We are full speed ahead on our construction. We are happy that we are under budget at the moment and we are on schedule. Everything is looking good.”

Phase 1 of the project includes a new four gate ticket counter, security checkpoint, and concession. Jensen says that phase should be finished by late 2021.