Canadian passengers make up about 30 per cent of all travellers flying out of Great Falls, Montana, and the international airport hopes to attract more Canadian customers as it adds more airline seats.
The Great Falls International Airport doesn't keep official statistics on how many of its northern neighbours check in there, but airport director John Faulkner estimates that Canadian travellers account for between 50,000 and 60,000 of the 190,000 passengers the airport sees each year.
Based on some information from airlines and a "visual inventory" of vehicle licence plates parked in the airport's lot, Faulkner sees that most Canadians who fly out of Great Falls are coming from B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta - from north of Edmonton to south of Lethbridge.
Many of them drive into Great Falls a couple of days early to spend the weekend shopping before their flights leave, Faulkner said, explaining he often sees several vehicles with Canadian licence plates parked at hotels on Friday afternoons.
"We do see that. It seems as though the hotels close to the airport have a higher concentration of Canadians than the ones that are further from the airport," he said.
Canadians' top destinations are Las Vegas and Phoenix, Faulkner said, although he said the airport has recently noticed more Canadians travelling to places like Atlanta, Georgia and South Carolina.
"We're beginning to see more varied travel, particularly as Frontier (Airlines) comes in and the fares have come down," he said, adding that the airport expects to have 40 per cent more seats available from Frontier Airlines this summer, which could bring lower fares.
"For us, with these new, low-cost flights and having so many seats, it's important for us to draw as many folks as we can to fill the seats so we can continue to draw more low-cost airlines, so we're obviously very thankful for (Canadians' business) and hope to continue to attract folks from up your way," Faulkner said.
In fact, as a way to gauge its customer base, the airport recently offered a coupon for airport parking and advertised it in the Lethbridge Herald as well as locally in Great Falls.
"We actually got more coupons back from Lethbridge in a month than we did from Great Falls in almost three months," Faulkner said.
"We're beginning to think that there is opportunity for some savings between what we offer and some of the other airports in Canada. So, it is a base that we're hoping would use us more."