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A Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by Southwest Airlines arrives for a landing at Hobby Airport on Wednesday in Houston. 

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One of the nation’s largest airlines announced Thursday morning that it’s expanding its service into Montana for the first time.

Southwest Airlines announced year-round, nonstop flights between Bozeman and Denver and Bozeman and Las Vegas are set to start on May 27, with two flights each way every day. Flights to and from Denver are scheduled to increase to four daily flights each way on June 6.

“What this really means is that we have another major network carrier,” said Brian Sprenger, Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport airport director. “There’s the biggest four carriers, we had three of the four and this will fill that out. Basically, we’ll have all of the largest carriers in the nation flying here.”

According to a Thursday news release from the airline, one-way flights will be as low as $39 for the two destinations, though seats and flights at that price will be limited. The Dallas-based airline announced new service in Destin/Ft. Walton, Florida, in the same release.

“We’re adding a new destination in the West, our first in Montana, and bringing additional access to the beaches of Northwest Florida,” said Andrew Watterson, Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President and chief commercial officer, in the news release. “Our arrival in these communities with daily service also ushers a new flexibility and everyday affordability for local travelers flying Southwest for fun, family or work.”

This year is Southwestern’s 50th year of service. The airline employs more than 56,000 people and had more than 130 million passengers in 2019.

“It obviously gets people more options flying in and out of Bozeman,” Sprenger said. “More options means more competition, more competition means that there will be potentially lower fares and more convenience.”

The Bozeman airport will be installing another boarding bridge for passengers to board Southwest flights. Those flights will be boarding and unloading at one of the gates in the newer $26.5 million, 75,000 square foot Concourse B, which opened in October 2020.

Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester sent statements Thursday giving the new announcement a thumbs-up.

“Southwest’s expansion of service into Montana will allow more folks to come experience all that the beautiful Treasure State has to offer,” Daines said. “This also means more jobs for folks in our tourism and hospitality sectors.”

“These new routes are welcome news for folks looking to experience the magic of Big Sky Country, and will give Montanans more flexibility when it comes to their travel plans,” Tester said. “Bringing more direct flights to Montana will create jobs, boost our tourism industry, and bolster local economies.”

Sprenger said bringing Southwest flights to Bozeman was a team effort that included the airport and its partners, including the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Business and Improvement District, Big Sky Resort, the Yellowstone Club, Lone Mountain Land Company, Montana State University and Yellowstone Country Tourism.

“It’s really been a community effort behind the scenes,” Sprenger said. “Without all of that, those people (and) those entities contributing to the overall effort, we would not have been successful.”

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at or at (406) 582-2651.

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