The Helena Regional Airport experienced record passenger traffic in 2016; 103,566 passengers departed from Helena, while 102,207 arrived for a total of 205,773 passengers using the Airport during the year. This number is increase of 3.5% over 2015.
In 2016, Delta Air Lines added 5,067 seats into the Helena market by strategically replacing 50- seat regional jets with larger 65- and 76-seat aircraft during peak demand times of the year, providing an 8.4% increase on Delta’s Helena/Salt Lake service and a very strong average load factor of 86%. United Airlines’ service to Denver also performed very strongly with an increase of 4.8% over 2015 and an average load factor of 89%. Alaska Airlines service to Seattle increased 2.4% over 2015, despite only having one daily flight to Seattle throughout most of 2016.
The Helena Regional Airport Authority is committed to increasing flights to/from Montana’s Capital City and is in the first phase of a multi-step process to achieve the goal of expanded Seattle service along with a new direct connection to Portland, Oregon on Alaska Airlines. By March 1, the Airport’s goal is to raise $100,000 of community revenue support to facilitate acquiring a US Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Grant in the amount of $500,000. The Airport Authority expects to hear if it has been successful in attaining the Grant by mid-summer, and then the Airport can move forward in working out the details for the service with Alaska Airlines. Community support of this project is critical, and the Airport is inviting businesses, organizations, and individuals to contribute financially towards this effort.
Increased passenger traffic is just one of the many positive things that occurred at the Helena Airport during 2016. Boeing began a large (89,000 square foot) expansion of their aerospace manufacturing facility, furthering their commitment to Helena’s local economy. Work continued on a multi-year project to construct the Montana National Guard’s Readiness Center adjacent to the Army Aviation Support Facility. The Airport itself made several improvements to critical infrastructure, including a $989,000 rebuild of a major taxiway serving the north side of the Airport. A partnership between the Helena Airport, Boeing, Montana National Guard, and US Forest Service was created in 2016 to replace a sewage lift station that serves all of these agencies in the northeast part of the Airport. The Airport also invested nearly $400,000 into fire fighter safety equipment for the Airport’s fire station and airport-owned and operated Rocky Mountain Emergency Services Training Center. The Training Center brings hundreds of firefighters to the community annually to receive state-of-the-art emergency training.