First passengers welcomed at brand new $67 million Missoula airport terminal

David Erickson

Missoula Montana Airport Director Brian Ellestad was going on about 24 hours with no sleep as of noon on Wednesday.

The airport officially opened its new $67 million terminal on Wednesday, and Ellestad wanted to make sure the first flights and the rush of passengers came through with no problems.

“Everything’s going great so far,” he said before stopping to give directions to a passenger. “I’ve seen a lot of smiles.”

To get the new terminal ready, he and his staff had to conduct a five-hour “sterile area sweep” on Tuesday that involved checking almost every inch of the new building by hand for anything that’s not allowed. The first flights arrived at about 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and Ellestad said most of the passengers that disembarked were surprised that they were welcomed into a brand new terminal. In fact, most of them had parked near the old terminal building.

“I stayed overnight, and the next morning the checkpoint opened at 4 a.m. and all the morning flights left early,” he said. “That was a great testament to the team.”

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