Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport

Packed bags sit near the baggage claim at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on March 26.

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Alaska Airlines announced Wednesday morning that it plans to add two daily direct flights to and from California this winter at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

The nonstop flights to San Diego and San Francisco are scheduled to begin Dec. 16 and run daily through April 18.

The winter service is a continuation and expansion of the existing summer routes with Alaska Airlines, which offers limited weekly flights to both cities until September, said Airport Director Brian Sprenger.

Southwest Airlines also added winter flights to San Diego and Orange County, the airport announced in June. Flights to San Diego and Orange County are scheduled to begin Nov. 23.

The announcements come as the airport faces one of its busiest summers ever as the pandemic wanes.

“After last year, it’s a welcome relief,” Sprenger said.

The airport saw a dramatic decrease in passenger numbers in 2020, with the biggest drop in March. Since then, passengers flying in and out of Bozeman have steadily increased.

“We are expecting passenger traffic to be up around 30% over 2019’s record traffic,” he said.

In 2019, the airport saw more travelers than ever, with 1.57 million passengers that year. It was the 10th consecutive year the airport had beat its own records.

The airport is on track to exceed that number. This June, the airport saw 44,000 more passengers flying in and out of Bozeman than in June 2019.

Sprenger estimates July will look similar. He’s projecting about 250,000 passengers in July compared to 191,000 in 2019.

Barring any new COVID-19 restrictions, Sprenger expects the high volume of passenger traffic to continue through winter and into next year.

With all the traffic, Sprenger said its important to arrive to the airport early when flying out of Bozeman.

“You’ll want to have some cushion,” he said.

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Juliana Sukut can be reached at 582-2630 or jsukut@dailychronicle.com

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