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Here’s what you need to know, Idaho, before driving (or flying) this Thanksgiving week

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Creative Commons, Boise State Public Radio
Nearly 14,000 passengers a day are expected to travel through the Boise Airport during Thanksgiving week.

AAA estimates nearly 290,000 Idahoans will be traveling this holiday week; and in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, officials at the Boise Airport are expecting passenger counts to rival pre-pandemic levels.

“We fully expect that on peak days, up to 14,000 passengers could fly in or out of the Boise airport.” said Boise Airport Business Development Manager Sean Briggs. "We request that passengers show up two hours in advance of their departure time.”

Meanwhile, for those Idahoans traveling by automobile, the National Weather Service office in Boise has some good news.

“We are looking for a nice return of quiet conditions for Wednesday,” said NWS lead forecaster Katy Branham. “And then we're looking at another system that looks like it'll start to move into the area for Thursday.”

Briggs and Branham visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to share details on their preparations for what promises to be one of the busiest travel weeks in at least a couple of years.

“Thanksgiving is typically the busiest holiday travel period of the year at the Boise Airport … we fully expect passenger traffic to be back to 2019 levels this year, which was a record year for the airport."
Sean Briggs

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News.  Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Well, here we are, Monday, November 22nd -Thanksgiving week, and that means a lot of people will be traveling, many of them, most likely, for the first time, maybe in a couple of years. So, let's bring Sean Briggs in. He is the Business Development Manager at the Boise Airport. Sean, good morning.

SEAN BRIGGS: Good morning, George. Thanks for having us today. I appreciate it.

PRENTICE: Do you have an approximate number of how many folks might walk through your doors this week?

BRIGGS: We do. And while it's very difficult to pin down the exact number of how many passengers we might see, we fully expect that on peak days, up to 14,000 passengers could fly in or out of the Boise airport.

PRENTICE: So, certainly this is going to be a very busy week, for all the right reasons.

BRIGGS: Oh, absolutely. And you know, Thanksgiving is typically the busiest holiday travel period of the year and the Boise Airport… we fully expect passenger traffic to be back to 2019 levels this year, which was a record year for the airport… in 2019.

PRENTICE: Give us a quick recap, by the way, of all the connections the cities that people can fly to directly from Boise.

BRIGGS: There are so many right now, George. I love to say this, but the Boise Airport is the most connected we've ever been in history. We have 29 nonstop destinations served by seven airlines in the past year alone. We've added new service to 10 destinations, and Alaska Airlines alone has added routes to eight locations, notably Austin, Chicago, Palm Springs and then interstate service - that makes it easier for Idahoans to get throughout the state with service to Pullman / Moscow and then Idaho Falls service will start in June of 2022 on Alaska.

PRENTICE: And we now connect to the East Coast direct, right?

BRIGGS: We do. It's not just Alaska that's been adding service. Delta added service to Atlanta in November last year, and then JetBlue added seasonal summer service to JFK and New York City, along with new service added by Southwest and Allegiant to places like Orange County and Nashville. The new service has just been coming in over the past year. It's been a great thing to see

PRENTICE: A lot of people might be traveling for the first time since the pandemic began, so I think it might help to give a refresher on safety protocols. Give us an idea of what it's like because… yes, we are still in a pandemic.

BRIGGS: Definitely. There have been a lot of passengers that have not traveled since March of 2020 when the pandemic began, and there's a lot of things that have changed at the airport. One of the big things is there is a federal requirement for all individuals who are traveling when in the airport, when on board an aircraft to wear a face covering. Many people understand these rules and regulations that are in place, but it's worth reiterating as that is a requirement while you're in the airport and on an airline. And then, of course, you'll see social distancing throughout the airport when you're traveling through and in Boise, passenger traffic has just rebounded so well, so we do fully expect it to be a busy holiday travel period lines maybe longer than you're used to, and we're just really encouraging passengers to be patient, arrive early and understand that as long as you come early and you have your patience, you're going to get where you need to go.

PRENTICE: Parking this week could be an issue. So, what are the options?

BRIGGS: Certainly.  Well, with the passenger traffic rebounding as strongly as it is, the Boise Airport has noticed that our close in parking facilities, that is our garage and surface that is located right next to the terminal that has been reaching capacity on the weekends. And we do anticipate that it will reach capacity leading up to the Thanksgiving travel. So, passengers should understand that if close-in parking is at capacity, we do have our economy lot. That's our shuttle lot that's located at Victory and Orchard that's available for use. There's a shuttle, it's a free shuttle that runs to the airport every 15 minutes and passengers. It's the pro tip here that if you want to know which parking lot to go to, visit our website IPY Boise and there are live parking updates on that website. So, you understand if the closest parking is full, you can just head straight to the economy lot and that stops you from circling around a lot that may have no space available.

PRENTICE: Real quick… how much time should we give ourselves? How early should we arrive for a flight this week?

BRIGGS: Great question, George. We request that passengers show up two hours in advance of their departure time. That way, you have plenty of time to. park, check in clear security, get to your gate. We have restaurants and retail options open in the airport, and so if you do get through security nice and quick, there's options to eat or shop before your flight.

PRENTICE: He is Sean Briggs, Business Development Manager at the Boise Airport, Sean, Happy Thanksgiving. And to you and your colleagues who work every holiday, thank you.

BRIGGS: Thank you so much, George. Have a great Thanksgiving as well.

GEORGE PRENTICE: And now let's check in on the all-important outlook for this holiday week. Katy Branham is the lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Boise. Katy, good morning.

KATY BRANHAM: Good morning, George.

PRENTICE: So, what are you looking at as far as weather systems that might impact Idaho in the coming days?

BRANHAM: So, looking at the true immediate term, so we're going to be mostly dry today, at least for any of those travelers that are getting a nice early jump on their holiday travel. We do have a system that looks like it's starting to move into the area tonight and that should impact the area through Tuesday. It could bring some light mountain snow. We're not expecting much in the way of accumulation. With that could see a little bit of gusty wind, but hopefully nothing significant. But there definitely could be at least a couple of road impacts, especially on those mountain passes. So, for those people that are looking at those routes, they'll want to keep an eye on those road conditions as they carry through. We are looking for a nice return of quiet conditions for Wednesday, and then we're looking at another system that looks like it'll start to move into the area for Thursday. It'll mainly begin to impact the area for Thursday afternoon, Thursday evening, so it could impact those return travelers. If you're leaving quickly after your meal there on Thursday and it'll continue even into the weekend, it's going to be a nice, abundant pack of moisture that's moving over the region. So we are monitoring for additional mountain snow and valley rain. With that, it will get in even potentially as far south as the Treasure Valley. So we're monitoring that upcoming storm that looks like to be the most impactful weather that we're monitoring, at least for the next week or so. So it definitely could be periods of interesting travel. But for some of those early travelers, you're looking pretty good

PRENTICE: And long, long range. What's out there? What's brewing, maybe out in the Pacific?

BRANHAM: Sure. So, we remain in a La Nina system, which generally means we're looking for those cooler and wetter conditions, and that's promoted by most of the forecasts that we have for the next eight to 14 days across the region. We are seeing a good potential for at least some above average moisture. Now the temperatures are looking a little varied. We could see a little bit of above normal values with those, but again, those are very generic outlooks. We have to see what kind of systems actually form over the region and even seasonally as we carry out, that's where that La Nina is really going to come into play. We're still expecting those cooler temperatures and maybe some above normal precipitation. So maybe, maybe a little bit more snowpack than what we at least saw last year. But we'll have to see what kind of systems we actually get in here. It's always, always interesting to see how the systems actually form and impact their region.

PRENTICE: She is Katy Branham, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Boise. Katy, Happy Thanksgiving!

BRANHAM: Happy Thanksgiving, George!

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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