The two top officials at the Missoula International Airport are in Bozeman meeting with representatives from several airlines, attempting to convince them to either initiate service or expand current service to Missoula.

Airport Director Chris Jensen said that in addition to the natural beauty of Montana, airlines also look for the commercial benefits of adding routes to places like Missoula.

“Specifically for Missoula, we talk a lot about the economic diversity we have with the University of Montana here,” said Jensen. “I think we were leading the state in job growth in the high-tech sector. We know through our surveys that about 25 percent of our passengers like the advantage of being halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and we talk about the new terminal that we’re building so that we can better accommodate new entrants into our market, or expended service with our existing carriers.”

Jensen said airlines move slowly in developing new routes.

“Our conversations with airlines typically are years in the making,” he said. “When I think back to Frontier Airlines it took us five years of meetings and American Airlines was about three years. We like to continue keeping them up to date on what we’re doing here.”

Jensen was also excited about the progress of the terminal expansion, enlisting the tallest representative in the entire airport to promote the remodel, Charlo the bear.

“Five or six months ago we had a name the bear contest,” he said. “The bear has taken a central role in our remodeling with phrases such as ‘please BEAR with us’ and ‘You’ll BARELY notice the construction’. In fact the concourses in the new terminal are actually going to be called the ‘South Paw’ and the ‘East Paw’ and we’ve gone with that whole bear thing. We had numerous entries to name the bear, but in the end we chose the name ‘Charlo’ which was significant because of our surrounding population.”