Billings Gazette: Billings airport gets $1M grant to help expand direct flights to California

Los Angeles may be just a single flight away for Billings residents.

Billings on Friday was awarded a $1 million Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASD) grant by the United States Department of Transportation to recruit, initiate, and support new air service between Billings and one of two California hubs —San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Helping the city to secure the grant was the Tourism Business Improvement District, the Billings Chamber of Commerce, Big Sky Economic Development and Montana Sen. Jon Tester.

“This SCASD grant is a very effective tool in our community’s ongoing air service development effort. We were successful in bringing American Airlines service to Billings with the last SCASD grant and I am looking forward to the new air service this grant will generate,” Jeff Roach, director of aviation and transit for the City of Billings, said in a statement.

Billings Chamber of Commerce President/CEO John Brewer said Southern California is one of the top destinations for Billings residents and is currently without direct service.

“Direct service to the Los Angeles or San Francisco area would grow our visitor economy and provide residents with a better quality of life via better travel options for leisure, visiting family, and work,” Brewer said in statement. “For smaller communities like Billings, support from this grant allows us to be competitive with other cities across the country in providing quality air service.”

It’s also good for business, he said. 

“When a city offers a variety of transportation options, it improves business efficiencies for those local companies doing business in those service areas.”

This is the second time the City of Billings has been awarded the SCASD grant, and city officials and business leaders hope it will increase air service frequency and availability from the Billings airport.

“Increasing air service is a strategic priority for the businesses and communities we serve,” Ashley Kavanagh, senior director of recruitment and community development at Big Sky Economic Development, said in statement. “We’re pleased to see that our government partners recognize our efforts and continue to support us as we expand our air service partnerships.”

Tester introduced the bipartisan Small Community Air Service Development Grant Act to help continue the program to make sure it was fully funded in the 2023 government funding bill. He was the only member of the Montana delegation to support the legislation. 

“Rural airports provide essential services in Montana, and investing in the growth of these airports lowers flight costs, creates jobs, and keeps families connected across our state,” Tester said in a statement. “I was proud to work across the aisle to secure these critical investments to bring more flights to the Billings Airport and support travel and commerce in Montana for years to come.” 

The City of Billings, the Tourism Business Improvement District, Billings Chamber of Commerce, and Big Sky Economic Development continue to partner with key stakeholders to increase air service in the Billings market and have a goal of providing a local match in funding to maximize the federal grant.

Those interested in partnering on a local match donation can contact Allison Corbyn, senior director at Western Skies Strategies at or 970-215-9290.