Glacier Park Airport Sees Spike in July Travelers

Boarding and arrival data showed flat growth this year compared to 2022, until July’s numbers revealed a 6.4% growth

By Maggie Dresser
Travelers exit Glacier Park International Airport on July 19, 2019.

Following flat growth at Glacier Park International Airport (GPIA) for most of 2023, July data revealed an uptick in travelers, with a 6.4% growth in enplanements compared to last year.

This July, there were 68,504 enplanements compared to 2022, which saw 64,352 and there were 68,201 deplanements compared to 63,792.

GPIA Director Rob Ratkowski said that while shoulder season numbers have increased in recent years as new residents travel, he’s not sure why the airport was significantly busier this July. In June of this year, there, there was a 2% decrease in in deplanements compared to 2022.

“July really broke that concept,” Ratkowski said. “People came here.”

Ratkowski said that even as the airline industry faces turbulence with high fuel prices and pilot shortages, GPIA has retained airline services that it’s gained over the years and airport demand remains high.

“We as a community and airport are fortunate in that regard as a lot of communities and our counterparts are losing a lot of service,” Ratokowski said. “We are an island in the storm.”

This May, Avelo Airlines joined GPIA seasonally and began providing twice weekly flights to Hollywood Burbank Airport. The airline addition was a result of GPIA’s passenger growth, which is the state’s third-busiest airport behind Bozeman’s Yellowstone International Airport and Missoula Montana Airport.

Last year, GPIA saw 850,000 passengers and, while peak summer months continue to see high numbers, Ratkowski says the shoulder-season traffic numbers are up significantly compared to recent years.

“A strong shoulder season is likely attributed to new residents in the valley,” Ratkowski said. “People now live here, and they are traveling.”

According to Montana Department of Transportation data, there were 30,856 enplanements at GPIA this January compared to 25,722 the year before. In January of 2014 there were only 14,220 enplanements.

To keep up with the growth, airport officials continue to make progress on its $150 million terminal expansion that will triple the airport’s footprint, from 75,000 square feet to 200,000.

The first phase is scheduled to finish by the end of the year, which has generally stayed on track despite some supply chain delays. The completion will bring new hold rooms, a new TSA check point, new jet bridges and waiting areas, expanded retail, restaurants and the state’s first escalator, which is currently under construction.

Phase two will entail construction on the south end of the building and is scheduled to be completed in May 2026.

Additional dining options will be included at the airport and officials are working with a master concessionaire, which will be managed by Metropolitan Culinary Services based out of Burbank. Montana Coffee Traders will have two locations in the airport along with Montana Gift Corral and Polebridge Mercantile.

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