AERO has piloted better air-travel options

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Glacier Park International Airport is truly the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg for economic development in the Flathead Valley.

On so many levels we rely on our airport for the connections it offers not only for commerce and tourism but also for leisure and family air travel. These days travelers have more direct flight options than ever before, and for that we shine the spotlight on Glacier AERO (Airline Enhancement and Retention Outreach), a group thatís been on the front line of working to expand regional air service since 2012.

Just a few days ago American Airlinesí first direct flight from Dallas/Fort Worth touched down at Glacier Park International, welcomed by a water arch created by firetrucks and cheers from local officials who notched another success for regional air travel. American Airlines also is offering direct flights to Los Angeles and Chicago this summer, and Allegiant stepped up with a direct flight to Phoenix.

Inter Lake reporter Duncan Adams provides an overview of Glacier AERO and its accomplishments in todayís business section. One nugget worth reiterating is the organizationís first success in 2014 when United Airlines expanded its winter service because AERO promised a Minimum Revenue Guarantee ó money that reduces the airlineís risk when offering a new route ó to cover shortfalls up to $235,000. The expanded air service was embraced by the flying public, and AERO paid only $16,600 that year to United to cover the shortfall.

The financial commitment from the businesses and individuals that support AERO without a doubt has helped drive the growth Glacier Park International has experienced in recent years.

And the numbers are impressive. Glacier Park International accommodated more than 600,000 inbound and outbound passengers in 2018, once again breaking its annual record. The outbound passenger count climbed to 307,000 travelers in 2018, up 13.6 percent from 2017. An airport report showed traffic peaked during the summer of 2018 with nearly 50,000 passengers boarding planes in July.

Airport officials expect the same pace, if not greater, this year, especially with the addition of new routes.

Terminal expansion also is on the horizon, with a 40,000-square-foot addition planned down the road to accommodate all of this growth.

The community buy-in that has pushed AERO forward through the years is a big reason for the upswing in air-traveler numbers. We look forward to further collaboration between AERO and the airlines, and we canít wait to see what will take flight next for this tenacious group of air-travel supporters.

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