Amid the news that Frontier Airlines will start new flights to Denver, there is the end of the year report that enplanements at Billings Logan International Airport increased over six percent in 2018 and United Airlines will expand their direct service between Billings and Chicago this summer. Kevin Ploehn, Director of Aviation & Transit, reported the news during a recent press conference.

Frontier Airlines is adding Billings to their flight plans for beginning in May. New direct flights from Billings to Denver will be offered which include low fares. An introductory special will offer one-way trips for $39.

United Airlines plans to extend to four months the two months of direct flights to Chicago they offered last summer. Service will be offered June through September, rather than just July and August. There will not, however, be any flights to San Francisco “any time soon,” since San Francisco is becoming “gate constrained and any new flights there would be mainline service, which Billings would not be able to support. Union contracts which limit the number of E-175 aircraft that United can fly, eliminate the use of that aircraft which would otherwise “work well” for Billings to San Francisco flights, explained Ploehn.

Enplanements at Billings Airport in 2018 topped 451,564 compared to 425,691 in 2017 – a 6.08 percent increase.

Air freight also increased significantly – outgoing freight from Billings increased 25.11 percent and incoming freight increased 16.82 percent. In 2018 Billings shipped out 27,120,901 pounds compared to 21,677,019, and brought in 54,359,033 pounds in 2018 compared to 46,532,667 pounds in 2017.

Mail by air experienced a dramatic decline. Outgoing mail dropped off over 27 percent 2018 over 2017, 15,078 pounds compared to 20,690. However, incoming mail increased 7.57 percent, 1,307,525 pounds in 2018 compared to 1,215,462 pounds in 2017.

Ploehn also reported that the estimated cost of the $52 million Terminal Expansion Project has jumped to a cost of $67 million because steel had doubled in price. That increase has been largely mitigated by changes in scope and by making some design changes that reduced the cost by $9 million to $10 million.

Ploehn said that some construction advisors believe more savings will be achieved when the actual price is set in the bidding process by the General Contractor/ Construction Manager.

Funding sources for the project will come from a combination of Federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds, Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) funds, and Revenue Bond funding.  

Construction is expected to begin in July and the entire project will take about three years to complete.