HELENA - Alaska Airlines will be offering direct service between Helena and Seattle starting Aug. 23.

The nonstop flight, operated by Horizon Air, will eliminate a stop in Great Falls for passengers who board in Helena.

While the airline already provides nonstop service between Great Falls and Seattle, removing Great Falls will cut an hour off the flight time from Helena, said Halley Knigge, an Alaska Airlines spokesperson.

Passengers boarding Alaska Airlines flights in Helena expressed an interest in nonstop service to Seattle, Knigge said.

Alaska Airlines will offer two daily nonstop, round-trip flights to Great Falls come Aug. 23 in addition to the nonstop service from Seattle to Helena, she said.

Once the daily, nonstop service is initiated, the flight from Seattle will arrive in Helena at 2:49 p.m. and depart at 3:25 p.m., according to a news release from Jeff Wadekamper, the Helena Regional Airport director.

Nonstop service will be provided using a 76-seat Bombardier Q400 jet. Passengers will be offered free, plane-side baggage service, soft drinks, Starbucks coffee and complimentary Northwest wine and microbrews for those who are age 21 and older, the news release stated.

The new, daily service will make available a total of 27,740 seats on flights to Seattle, although some of those seats are already being used by passengers.

“It’s really a pretty important hub for us to be connected to as well as our No. 1 destination,” Wadekamper said.

The availability of additional seats offers the airline a way to expand its Helena market, Wadekamper said, explaining that about 100,000 people board flights out of Helena each year.

Delta, which also has flights into Helena, serves about 60 percent of those boarding planes here, and Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have roughly equal shares of the remaining passengers, the airport director noted.

Delta connects Helena to flights and airlines in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, and United Airlines connects Helena with Denver.

Having Alaska Airlines expand its service to Helena is important because smaller cities are struggling to retain air service, Wadekamper said.

And for two weeks, Alaska Airlines is offering a discount on fares, Wadekamper said.

Alaska Airlines didn’t provide him with specifics, he added and explained that seat prices are fluid and factors such as availability of seats on a flight affect pricing.

The company’s website showed a $155 charge for a Helena to Seattle ticket on the day before the nonstop service is to be offered. The price for a ticket on Aug. 23 drops to $129. Tickets on some subsequent days could be purchased for as low as $119.

Al Knauber can be reached at al.knauber@helenair.com

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