Missoula Airport opens new terminal

MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula Airport's new terminal is fully open as of Wednesday morning. 

The first plane arrived at the new gates Tuesday night and Wednesday morning brought on-time departures. 

Along with the new facilities also comes new technology. While TSA officials and airlines staff are trained on the software, airport officials still encourage passengers to arrive early in case of any hiccups. 

Travelers will now leave their checked suitcases at the ticket counter. 

New 3-D scans also mean they can leave their liquids and electronics in their carry-ons through security. 

Airport Director Brian Ellestad highlighted the new terminal is easier to navigate and now has food options before security. In the east terminal, passengers only had food options after security.

The new terminal also features an outdoor patio, more charging outlets and improved Wi-Fi. 

While it's easy to see all the changes, Ellestad said one of the biggest accomplishments for this project was something that didn't change, rates and prices for the airlines. 

“It’s important for us to keep our airline rates and charges low," Ellestad said. "That allows us to be more competitive, get new routes and new service. Right now we have a pilot shortage so it’s a little harder to recruit more service but hopefully next year, at that point, we’ll be able to offer more destinations and more frequencies.” 

He added with the new building also creates energy savings, potentially allowing them to reduce rates and help competition even more. 

This project was paid for with $30 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration paired with $36 million in local financing that didn't impact local taxes.

According to Ellestad, the project is expected to finish under budget. 

Looking ahead, the airport will now turn to phase 2 where they'll decommission the east terminal, add more gates, expand baggage claim and create a more permanent rental car center. 

Phase 2 is scheduled to be completed in summer 2025.

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