It was another banner year at Glacier Park International Airport.
Boosted by new seasonal flights to major markets and a strong tourism season, the Kalispell airport set a new annual passenger record. A total of 452,588 revenue passengers traveled through GPIA in 2014, breaking the previous record set in 2013 by 13.74 percent, according to airport officials.
The number of passengers departing from GPIA jumped 13.49 percent, with 227,561 people compared to 200,520 in 2013.
The number of arriving passengers in 2014 was 225,027 compared to 197,403 in 2013.
GPIA set monthly passenger records for departures in 10 of the 12 months. In both July and August, over 35,000 people flew out of GPIA.
“It is very encouraging to see passenger number growth year over year, and to see economic recovery continue to manifest itself in travel,” stated Cindi Martin, airport director at GPIA. “We believe we are seeing both tourism and business travel improvements as evidenced by the fact that nearly every month in 2014 a record number of travelers flew in and out of our market than in previous years.”
There were almost 55,000 more passengers at GPIA last year compared to 2013, and almost 69,000 more than in 2012.
GPIA added several new flights this year. United Airlines agreed to fly round-trip from Kalispell to Chicago O’Hare International from Dec. 20 through April 4. The new service was the first deal involving the upstart Glacier AERO — a nonprofit named the Airline Enhancement Regional Organization — that raised donations from the community to help increase local airline services. Glacier AERO provided a revenue guarantee of $240,000 to secure the Chicago service.
There were also two new seasonal flights to Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon added this year.
Likely another contributing factor was the region’s great tourist magnet — Glacier National Park, which broke its annual visitation record this year.
Also, Whitefish Mountain Resort boasted a record season from December 2013 through April 2014. The resort attracted nearly 345,000 total skier visits last winter, 7 percent more than the previous season.