Board votes to change name from Gallatin Field Airport

By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

A coalition including Gallatin Field Airport, the ski resorts in Big Sky and other regional businesses recently received a bid from an airline for the proposed non-stop flight between New York and Bozeman.

They wouldn’t say which airline submitted the bid.

With $1.6 million on hand to fund the flight route for its first two years, the group is optimistic, says Scott Humphrey, the airport’s deputy director.

Negotiations with the airline, which start mid-December, should take four to six weeks, Humphrey said. Days of service and the amount of revenue guaranteed to the airline are yet to be determined.

The more flights per week, the more revenue the service will bring in.

“It’s going to come down to frequency,” Humphrey said. “It’s balancing [how much funding] the collation can put forth to the airline, versus the airline’s cost to operate the service and the revenue they’re going to require for each flight.”

“Here’s the goal: To sell the June 2012 seats, we want this flight for sale, in the system, by February 2012,” said Meg O’Leary, Big Sky’s Director of Sales and Marketing and a member of the coalition.

If the coalition and the airline can come to terms on that timeframe, Humphrey says, they could have the service by June 2012.

Funding has come from a Department of Transportation grant and private contributions. Gallatin Field Airport already has flights to Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

The Gallatin Airport Authority board also voted in December to change the facility name to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field.

This tongue twister will help align the airport with the constituent that travels here, Humphrey said. The new name will associate the facility with Bozeman, its largest population center, and with Yellowstone Park, the largest draw for travelers coming from out of state.

“It’s really to compete with Jackson Hole, Cody, Billings and Salt Lake City,” he said.

About 65 percent of travelers that fly into Gallatin Field come from out of state, and the airport is trying to position itself as the premier gateway to Yellowstone, Humphrey added, pointing out it’s situated 90 minutes from two year-round park entrances.

These changes follow on the heels of a two-year $40 million airport expansion completed this past July. The new terminal added about 125,000 square feet to the existing building, making the airport the largest in Montana.