Helena Regional Airport will be hosting the Montana Airline Rendezvous next month, a two-day event in which Montana commercial airports will meet with airline representatives in the hopes of bringing more flights to the Big Sky State.
Jeff Wadekamper, Helena Regional Airport director, said hosting the event provides a unique opportunity for Helena to show off its airport campus and the unique blend of business and activities.
The Sept. 7-8 event will also give the airport a chance to show off Helena and give the airlines the chance to see a growing community, Wadekamper said. He said the idea was to bring the representatives here rather than have Montana airport officials attend a conference out of state.
“The idea is to get them here in Montana so they can see it for themselves and why people are moving here and coming here for tourism,” Wadekamper said.
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“We still think Helena and Montana have some real opportunities other parts of country don’t necessarily have,” he said.
Wadekamper said he is working with a $ 10,000 budget and did not have attendance numbers now, as people are still registering. But he said the attendees will be made up of existing airlines, new airlines and airport representatives.
“We’ve invited everyone out there here so that we can have conversations,” he said.
And he said he has been seeking sponsorships from the community to help with putting the event on.
Helena Regional Airport has five departures and five arrivals a day by Delta, United and Alaska airlines.
Flights are to Salt Lake City, Denver and Seattle. Helena had a flight to Minneapolis until a couple years ago, but Delta reduced its flights there and increased flights to Salt Lake City.
Wadekamper hopes the Minneapolis flight, which was popular with people flying out of Helena, will return some day. And he said the Helena airport has been working on it.
He said the airport has tried to push the return of the Minneapolis flight with an airport incentive plan in which new services do not have to pay use fees for the first year.
He said Helena hopes to have American Airlines come to the Queen City and made the same offer.
“We’re looking at every tool in our tool box,” Wadekamper said.
But he noted the biggest challenge now facing airlines is a lack of pilots, which is driving the industry and leading to a lot of adjustments to routes and networks.
If any Helena business or organization wants to help sponsor next month’s event, contact Wadekamper at 406-442-2821.
Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.