Story and photo by Emily Stifler, explorebigsky.com managing editor
Gallatin Field airport will soon add a nonstop flight from New York to Bozeman, thanks to a $950,000 grant from the Department of Transportation.
Similar to Gallatin Field’s Atlanta flight, the New York service will be seasonal, with summer and winter traffic.
A coalition of local groups helped procure the grant, which will be used over one to two years, according to Scott Humphrey, the airport’s deputy director. The coalition included the Yellowstone Club, Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin, the Club at Spanish Peaks, the Bozeman Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce.
The community has been working on the direct flight program for many many years, said Meg O’Leary, Director of Sales and Marketing at Big Sky Resort and Chair of the Gallatin air coalition.
“One of the reasons we were awarded the large amount of money is because we have a healthy private fund,” O’Leary said. “We’re not matching that $950,000, but we’re close…There’s skin in the game–we’re not just a community that’s going to ride off the coattails of the federal government.”
She also credited the strong teamwork between different entities in the coalition.
“It’s been one of those topics that brings the community together. We all need more seats in, whether you’re a downtown business in Bozeman or Big Sky Resort. It’s a very constructive group of people.”
The airport plans to sign the Department of Transportation contract by the end of October.
Until then, the coalition will negotiate with different airlines for service that best serves the community.
“We need this to be a win for the airlines and a win for the community,” O’Leary said. “With this new funding vehicle and our viable destination, we hope carriers will find it desirable to serve the Gallatin Valley.”
These negotiations will determine start date and days of service for the New York flight. Gallatin Field could see service as early of summer 2012, but more likely by winter of 2012/2013. So far they’ve talked with United, Delta and Jet Blue.
Depending on negotiations with the airline carriers, the coalition will come up with additional funds, Humphrey said.
“I think [the new flight] will be great for the airport and for the community,” Humphrey said.
Gallatin Field has seen an overall growth rate between 11 and 12 percent for the last 12 months. They’ve also completed an addition that nearly doubled the footprint of the airport, making it the largest in the state. The entire project should be complete by mid- to late- November.