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As Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport continues to grow, a new airline is about to take off.

JetBlue will offer direct flights between Long Beach, California, and Bozeman starting Thursday, becoming the seventh airline to set up shop in the small but busy airport.

“There aren’t a lot of airlines left in the U.S. we don’t have,” said airport director Brian Sprenger. “We’re excited to have JetBlue enter Montana.”

Sprenger said he thinks the low-cost airline was looking for opportunities to develop its high-end leisure traffic and to expand, and quickly growing Bozeman was a good fit.

JetBlue has been looking at the Bozeman market for a couple of years, said Robin Hoover, executive director of Yellowstone Country Montana. And now appeared to be the best time for the airline to move in, as there are plenty of “winter enthusiasts” who come to Bozeman to ski, she said.

As the airport grows, Sprenger and Hoover said it makes sense that more airlines would move in, including low-cost ones like JetBlue and Allegiant, the latter of which offers flights to Phoenix and Las Vegas.

“As we grow, we will continue to see more options, with airlines and destinations” Sprenger said.

Flyers shouldn’t have to wait long for those options. Bozeman Yellowstone International has quickly become the busiest airport in the state, with about 600,361 people flying out in 2017. It is also planning on expanding, adding five new gates to the existing eight by 2021.

“We’re always looking to add to the availability of incoming and outgoing flights,” Hoover said.

For now, JetBlue will offer flights on Thursdays and Sundays through April, picking up again in June through September, Sprenger said. The airline will determine the future of the flight after next summer.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating JetBlue’s first flight is open to the public and will be held in front of security at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on Thursday at 3 p.m. Speakers from JetBlue, the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce, Yellowstone Country Montana, Visit Big Sky and the airport itself will be there, Hoover said. Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney will also be speaking.

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Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

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