Last week John Faulkner, Executive Director of Great Falls International Airport, gave a presentation at the noon meeting focusing on the Low-Cost Airfare Initiative. Through a partnership between the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce and the airport, the initiative was launched seven years ago and has accomplished a great deal since.


It has lowered ticket prices, saving Great Falls travelers more than $32 million. The average one-way airfare at GTF dropped from $230 (2007 to 2011) to $201 (2012 to 2018), making Great Falls International Airport the low-cost leader in Montana.

These price reductions were spearheaded by Frontier Airlines’ presence in Great Falls, whose ultra-low fares and tourism marketing led to the busiest four years in the airport’s history. Although Great Falls lost Frontier service and incentive money was never used to attract them, Frontier is still a good target for new service to Great Falls.

The initiative was also directly responsible for United Airlines’ launch of direct service to Chicago, the longest scheduled route every flown from Great Falls. Chicago flights started as weekend-only service in the summer of 2016 and expanded to daily in the summer of 2018. The new option has been highly successful. United has also expanded their brand to grow Denver traffic, adding flights in the second half of 2018 with record volumes since.

The years since incentives began in 2012 have been the airport’s busiest years. Moreover, adding a new airline or even a flight to a new hub on an existing airline can have a major impact on fares and that, in turn, generates traffic. John urged Rotarians to support a new investment in this successful initiative to keep us competitive with Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula, all of which invest over $1 million to provide incentives for greater airline presence in their communities.