MIAMI — American Airlines will begin nonstop service between Dallas Fort Worth and Bozeman, Montana, with a daily service set to begin on June 2. The new route, which will be offered seasonally during the summer and winter, will connect American’s largest hub with the gateway to popular tourist destination Yellowstone National Park. The route will be served by a three-class Bombardier CRJ-900 regional jet (RJ) featuring Main Cabin Extra. Summer service will run from June to October while winter flights will be operated from December 15, 2016 to end in April 2017.
Bozeman’s success highlights the new equation for small city air service
For Bozeman, the new route to Dallas is the result of more than a year’s worth of discussions with American. In order to secure the service, Gallatin County (which houses Bozeman) is providing a substantial financial incentive to the tune of $1.3 million in revenue guarantees to reduce the risk to American. Bozeman will be American’s first ever destination in Montana. US Airways previously had service from its hub at Phoenix to Billings and Kalispell, but both routes were short lived and eliminated prior to the merger with American.
Bozeman itself is not necessarily starved for air service, as the airport registeres over a million passengers in 2015, and has service from five other airlines, including ultra low cost carriers (ULCCs) Allegiant Air and Frontier.The overall air service profile includes year-round services to midwest hubs Minneapolis St. Paul and Chicago O’Hare, relatively frequent year-round services to Denver and Salt Lake City, and flights to west coast hubs (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). Delta also offers seasonal service to New York La Guardia and Atlanta while United offers seasonal service to Newark. The only other service to Texas is seasonal United Express service to Houston Bush.
The new flights are obviously a boon for Bozeman, which will gain strong connectivity to the Eastern Seaboard and particularly the Southeast (the other flights to the Eastern seaboard are mainly Saturday only). But they also highlight a broader shift in the US airline industry in the possibilities frontier of air service to smaller US cities.
For several years now, smaller cities have been steadily losing air service thanks to the declining economics of RJs, particularly the 50-seaters. As airlines sought to turn over their fleet and reduce reliance on these aircraft, a natural casualty was service to airports like Bozeman (and smaller ones). But thanks to the sharp decline in oil prices over the past year and a half, those RJs are suddenly more economical, and small cities such as Bozeman will be benefited.In fact, over the next 6 to 12 months, we expect to see air service restored or grown by legacy carriers in many of these small cities.