Frontier Airlines has released its schedule for next summer, and Missoula's on it for the second year in a row.
Missoula International Airport announced Monday that direct evening flights three days a week to and from Denver will resume May 14 and continue through at least Aug. 9, the end of the Denver-based airline's summer slate. A seat booked Monday to depart Missoula on May 14 and return May 17 was going for $124.
It's not like the airlines to explain such decisions, said Brian Ellestad, the airport's deputy director.
"They didn't give us a reason, but they're right now tying us into their normal summer schedule," Ellestad said.
In 2014, Frontier's first time back in Missoula since 1995, the schedule began in mid-June with flights ultimately departing four times a week – on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday – during peak season and three times weekly after that.
The schedule was soon extended from the end of summer to Jan. 5, 2015. Shortly after the service began in June, Frontier asked for a financial guarantee to continue flying to Missoula through the winter. Businesses via the Missoula Economic Partnership offered instead to guarantee all of 2015 to balance out the lean months, but that deal wasn't accepted.
Airport administration has "gotten nothing but positive feedback" about Frontier's service to Denver, Ellestad said.
In part because of the addition of Frontier to Missoula's stable of airlines that includes Alaska, Allegiant, Delta and United, the airport enjoyed a record-breaking summer for enplanements. It's doing even better than projected this fall, Ellestad said, with increases of more than 20 percent over last year.
Frontier flights have been consistently more than 90 percent full, an industry benchmark. The airline's presence has also served to keep prices competitive. United continues to offer daily nonstop flights to Denver.
According to the airport, the initial 2015 schedule for Frontier calls for flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays arriving in Missoula from Denver at 8:20 p.m. and leaving for Denver 30 minutes later. All will be on the 138-seat Airbus A319, which Frontier calls "the workhorse of our fleet."
Ellestad said Delta recently added Saturday and Sunday flights to Atlanta for the Christmas season.