Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport

A Delta flight waits for a United plane to land before taking off at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in this Chronicle file photo.

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The Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport announced Friday its newest and longest-ever direct flight, a holiday season flight from Bozeman to Fort Lauderdale in southern Florida.

“It’s by far the longest nonstop flight ever scheduled out of Montana,” said airport director Brian Sprenger. “It’s also a very unique market in that it’s also desirable for both sides of the equation to travel to that location.”

The flight will be operated by JetBlue, which has three additional seasonal direct flights to and from Bozeman: Boston, New York’s JFK airport and Long Beach, Calif. That Long Beach flight will shift next month to a direct flight to Los Angeles’s LAX airport, Sprenger said.

Sprenger said the Fort Lauderdale flight is “testing the market” to see if there’s interest in a more consistent direct flight.

“If it performs very well, JetBlue has indicated to us that they would consider expanding it,” he said.

For now, it’s scheduled to take place twice a week between Dec. 18 and Jan. 6, during the peak holiday season.

The airport is recovering steadily from the massive drop in passengers it saw due to COVID-19 earlier this year. Sprenger said last month the airport saw 56% of the passengers it saw in August 2019, a record-breaking year, up from the 44% of passengers the month prior.

“We’re recovering quicker (than the national average),” he said. “People in Montana, because of the distances, will still travel by air ... Inbound tourism traffic is recovering quicker here than many other parts of the country, as well.”

The airport’s second concourse, which has been under construction since the spring of 2019, is also nearing completion and is scheduled to open the first week of November. That 75,000-square-foot addition will bring the airport’s total space to 275,000 square feet.

“The size of this addition is equivalent to what we were operating out of about 10 years ago, before our last addition,” Sprenger said. “It’s looking great.”

The new concourse will be the home for departures and arrivals of United Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights, a third restaurant inside security, more retail stores and additional baggage handling.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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