Boardings at Butte’s Bert Mooney Airport rose for the second year in a row, and airport administrators hope to continue that growth as plans develop for a multi-million dollar terminal expansion.
“For economic development for any city or surrounding counties, it’s vital to have a good airport,” airport manager Pat Shea said Wednesday.
In Butte, a new focus from Delta SkyWest, combined with new marketing from Bert Mooney, helped reduce fare prices and increase boardings. From 2012 to 2013, they increased 43 percent, and went up an additional 3.5 percent in 2014.
“We’d love to work on a new market, a new destination,” Shea said, speaking to the Butte Kiwanis Club.
But the airport operators believe that bringing in another carrier isn’t the best way to accomplish that.
Because Butte is considered an essential air service airport, it’s required to have a contract with a carrier. But if it were to bring in another carrier, it might take away business from its existing contract with SkyWest. And because there was another option in Butte, SkyWest would have the option of pulling out.
“It’s walking on eggshells,” Shea said. “They could pull out if we have comparable service.”
Instead, the airport is trying to increase boardings through SkyWest in order to entice the airline to expand its service in Butte.
Expanding the main terminal will hopefully help accomplish that, Shea said.
Plans are being developed to almost double the square footage in the terminal – a $5 million to $6 million project. Shea hopes to break ground on the improvements in spring of 2016.