Missoula County Coverage

Jul 5, 2012 8:57 PM by Mike Powers - KPAX News

Budget airline carrier eyes Missoula

MISSOULA- Folks who fly out of the Garden City on a regular basis know finding a flight within your budget can be a challenge, but that might change next year if budget carrier Frontier Airlines starts flying into the Missoula International Airport.

James Grunke, with the Missoula Economic Partnership, said if Frontier comes into Missoula, he thinks air fares across the board will go down by at least 20%. "That relates to about $4 million new dollars of savings to area businesses," he said.

The Missoula Economic Partnership has been negotiating with Frontier since spring and the airline is expected to offer a proposal in the fall, one that will share the risk.

Grunke said it's the partnership's job to make the case and share some of the risk in starting the service. "And, most of the time it comes to a revenue guarantee. Our hope, of course, is that we never need to use the revenue guarantee because people will be on the planes," he said.

Missoula is also competing with other cities, schedules and plane availability, but Grunke believes a deal with Frontier will happen, with an announcement in the winter. He also is focusing on in-state air service.

"Because of the business opportunities on the Eastern part of the state , Missoula is really kind of missing out because we don't have an easy way to get over there," he said.

Grunke hopes Frontier will be flying in and out of Missoula by next spring., and someday see the airport live up to the "international" part of its name and have connections outside the United States.

Back in May, Frontier added seasonal service from Great Falls to Denver and officials in the Electric City say Frontier's presence has significantly lowered competitor rates, and the Great Falls International Airport now how has some of the lowest fares in the state.

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