HELENA, Mont. -- Helena Regional Airport recently received just over a million dollars in an attempt to secure nonstop flights to Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport as soon as this winter.
While it seems simple in theory -- Phoenix is a great escape from a Montana winter, and Montana serving the same escape role from a Phoenix summer -- right now, there are very few direct flights into Sky Harbor from any of the Montana airports statewide.
The gap provides an opportunity for Helena Regional, as they are actively courting American Airlines into launching a daily nonstop flight from the Capitol City. The airport rose over $200k to show interest and now has access to the grant money for the next three years.
"The bulk of it will be used as a revenue guarantee for the new route to Phoenix,” Airport Director Jeff Wadekamper said. “So the airline, if they have any losses during the startup phase during the first three years of that service, the air service grant -- they can draw from that."
Wadekamper says they chose Phoenix over other airports because they see more travelers out of Helena connecting to travel there than almost any other destination they do not currently serve. The airport recently remodeled the interior of the terminal, and the hope is the remodel will help show a desire to keep expanding.
As for when folks in Central Montana might be able to expect these flights to start up -- conversations between the airline and airport remain ongoing, but the goal is to have these flights available for you to escape winter or go see friends and family early next year.