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Billings airport traffic inches up but not because of the holidays

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The number of travelers passing through the Billings airport has steadily grown over the last two months and November is anticipated to be just as active when compared to last year.

"We've been really busy the last two months," said Kevin Ploehn, director of Billings Logan International Airport. 

But holiday travel isn't creating the increase, he said. 

Rather, after a spring and summer with limited flights to and from Billings, airlines are now making more seats available for travelers flying into and out of the Magic City. 

And Ploehn anticipates the airlines will add a few more flights to Billings in December specifically for holiday flyers.

In the spring, a national shortage of commercial pilots left airlines running fewer flights, which left Billings with fewer departures. In the first half of 2022, the Billings airport had on average roughly 15,000 fewer seats available for flyers than it did last year.

By the end of the summer those numbers were inching up. Through the fall, the Billings airport averaged between 36,000 and 37,000 travelers passing through Logan, a number that will likely hold steady through November, Ploehn said.

Last November roughly 32,000 travelers passed through the Billings airport. So while numbers are up this November, he's not expecting Billings to have any significant increase in Thanksgiving travel. 

"It's not going to be a whole lot," he said.

Planes are full right now and prices have been a little lower through the fall travel season, although Ploehn expects fares will rise as the holiday season gets into full swing. 

Summer is the Billings airport's busiest travel season and that was true this year. The high water mark for Billings was August 2019 when 46,400 flyers passed through the airport.

The pandemic and COVID restrictions impacted air travel across the globe and in Billings numbers dropped precipitously by more than 50%.

By August 2021, the numbers of flyers had climbed back to about 42,000 in Billings. This summer, with fewer flights available, the number of travelers passing through the airport was in the 40,000 range, Ploehn said. 

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