Glacier Park International Airport will welcome four new nonstop flights and see a 12 percent increase in departing travelers this summer, the largest increase of any of Montana’s four largest airports, according to numbers released by the Transportation Security Administration on May 14.
Passenger traffic at GPIA has grown by 35 percent since 2015, and the TSA is estimating that a record 16,000 passengers per week will depart from the Kalispell airport during the period between Memorial Day (May 27) and Labor Day (Sept. 2). That’s a 12 percent increase from 2018, and the weekly volume is the third highest among all Montana airports, trailing only Missoula International Airport (16,800 passengers per week) and Bozeman-Yellowstone Airport (26,500).
GPIA will welcome American Airlines for the first time in 2019, beginning with a nonstop from Dallas that will arrive on June 6 and be greeted by a celebratory water arch as the plane taxis to the terminal. American will also offer direct flights to and from Chicago and Los Angeles this summer. In addition, Allegiant Air is now offering a nonstop to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, a route that began flying this week.
More than 600,000 travelers passed through GPIA in 2018, and in part to deal with the increased passenger traffic and increased number of routes available, the airport is in the midst of a three-year expansion project that could add as much as 40,000 square feet in terminal space.
Air travel nationwide is projected to rise by more than 5 percent this summer, according to the TSA, and Montana’s four largest airports are estimated to see a 9 percent overall increase in summer departures. Montana’s airports have seen an 11 percent increase in departing passengers so far this year and enjoyed a 21 percent increase since 2017. The summer 2019 passenger data provided by the TSA is a projection, created in tandem with the airlines that fly to each locale.
This summer will also be one of the last times Montanans are able to fly commercially using a standard driver’s license. Starting on Oct. 20, 2020, Montana driver’s licenses must be REAL ID-compliant if they are to be used for commercial air travel, or to visit military bases, nuclear facilities and some federal offices. REAL ID licenses have a small star in a gold circle in the upper right corner of ID card. No one is required to have REAL ID-compliant form of identification, although standard Montana licenses will have the words “Not for Federal Identification” printed across the top of the card.
The Montana Motor Vehicle Division began issuing REAL ID licenses earlier this year. REAL ID licenses do require additional documentation and an in-person visit to a MVD office. The cost of a REAL ID is $25 in addition to the standard license fee. To view a list of documents required to acquire a REAL ID, visit http://mtrealid.gov/required-docs/.