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Boise Airport is expecting record-setting travel for Memorial Day weekend

A silhouette of a person walking with a suitcase and a departure screen at the Boise Airport.
Boise State Public Radio, Creative Commons

Astronomers insist that the summer solstice on June 21 is the official beginning of summer. Forecasters prefer to say that June 1 is the beginning of what they call “meteorological summer.”

But for many of us, the Memorial Day holiday weekend launches the summer season, particularly when it comes to travel. And that’s just fine when it comes to air carriers and officials at the Boise Airport.

“I have every reason to believe that we will see record travel over Memorial Day,” said Rebecca Hupp, Boise Airport Director, adding that the airport has already seen record travel over the President’s Day long weekend and during Spring Break.

Hupp visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about what summertime travelers can expect, big changes coming to the airport, and the airport’s steady growth in services, airline partners, and above all, passengers.

“We had our highest passenger numbers ever in 2019, and we are seeing passenger travel rebound to those levels and perhaps even more.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. We are quickly approaching the Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer. No surprise, travel experts are expecting a good many of us to travel in the coming days. So, let's spend some time this morning with Rebecca Hupp, director of the Boise Airport, and she joins us from the airport. Rebecca, good morning.

REBECCA HUPP: Good morning, George. Thank you for the invitation to join you on your show.

PRENTICE: I'd like to talk about passenger travel in a moment, but I'd first like to ask you about an organization assessment that was completed by Stephen Baldwin Associates. And I'm guessing that the results confirmed what you already knew, and that is staffing and the effort to keep pace with passenger growth. What are your needs?

HUPP: Well, it was an interesting process. We completed an initial assessment in 2019, looking forward to future growth. And we all know that in 2020 we saw a pandemic. But during that time, Boise travel decreased because of COVID, but we didn't decrease as much as some of our peers. And so during that time, we actually transitioned to what F.A.A. refers to as a medium hub, meaning we are one of the largest airports in the country. There is only I think 36 medium hubs and now Boise is one of them. And then of course you have an even fewer number of large hubs, so it's added some additional regulatory requirements for us. But also as we look to the future in growth, knowing that we're growing, our operations are tending towards more 24 hour a day operations with some redeye flights, bringing on new facilities, new parking garages, new rental car garages and just more flights and passengers in general. We need to have the people necessary to accommodate them. And so the study did show that there were a couple of areas where maybe we need people who focus on some things that are very specific because of our growth to look at, for example, analytics. And then there are other things where we just need more people to accommodate more passengers and more facilities. So we do expect that we'll hire over 20 people in the next year and it will be a range of positions and responsibilities. But we think that that will help position the Boise Airport for future success.

PRENTICE: I want to make certain I don't gloss over something you just said, and that is the possibility of the day where we do have 24 hour service and the possibility of redeye flights.

HUPP: We do have some redeye flights even today and we have over the last several years. And what we're seeing is as flights arrive later into the night, so I think midnight or one or if a flight is delayed, it could be as late as two. And then we have flights that leave as early as 5 a.m.. So we have people who are arriving at 330. You can see that our airport is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And of course, that doesn't take into account things like Lifeflight and NIFC and some of those that might have to operate at irregular hours.

PRENTICE: So again, those late arrivals, early departures would come under that red eye classification.

HUPP: Correct?

PRENTICE: The Boise Airport adds another airline this week. Tell us about that.

HUPP: Yes, we are excited that AVELO has announced service and is starting service. Boise to Burbank. It was actually one of our largest unserved destinations and Avelo is one of the newer low-cost carriers. They've been primarily focused on the east, but now they are moving west and we're excited that they've chosen Boise as one of their starting points.

PRENTICE: So I want to make sure I have this right. This would be the fifth nonstop destination from Boise to Southern California. Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, a seasonal service to Palm Springs, and now the Hollywood/Burbank Airport.

HUPP: That is correct.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about summer travel. What are your expectations for the upcoming holiday weekend?

HUPP: We've seen passenger travel rebounding very strongly in the Boise market. In fact, both March and April passenger numbers exceeded our pre-pandemic peak, which was in 2019. We had our highest passenger numbers ever in 2019, and we are seeing passenger travel rebound to those levels and perhaps even more. And we are seeing different trends in parking where more people are parking and perhaps parking for longer, leading to congestion in our parking areas as we try to build a new parking garage to accommodate this increased traffic.

PRENTICE: So, we could be seeing possibly close to record numbers this weekend?

HUPP: Travel has been very unpredictable, but I will say we saw record travel over spring break. There was another weekend in February. That was the four-day holiday weekend where schools were out, I believe, on Friday over the Presidents Day holiday weekend. We saw record travel that weekend. So I have every reason to believe that we will see record travel over Memorial Day as well.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about those parking options that you just mentioned. The extended economy lot I know has been operating. I'm going to assume that that will very much be an option for us this coming weekend.

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Boise Airport

HUPP: Yes, we have four shuttles that are operating to and from the terminal to the economy parking lot. And so passengers should not have to wait any more than 15 minutes for a shuttle from the economy lot. However, I will say that parking is nearing capacity, so passengers should not plan to park at the terminal. They should plan to park remotely. If they can, they should think about taking an Uber or a lift. We do have the option where you can park reserve a parking place online through the Park Mobile app. So you might want to snag one of those spaces if you really want to park close. And then we're hoping over the summer we'll be able to unveil a new valet service, but we're not quite there yet.

PRENTICE: I've used that app and it's the best kept… well, it's not a total secret, but every time I tell someone, they feel as if I've given them some inside information. Those reservations are great. What a great option.

HUPP: They really are very convenient and it's relatively affordable. It's a little bit more expensive than parking in the regular garage. But if you want to be sure that you have a spot and you don't want to have to go to the economy a lot, then that is money very well spent.

PRENTICE: Face coverings. What's the status of what we have to do as far as face coverings?

HUPP: Face coverings are optional. The. The requirement for face coverings has expired. The only caveat I will say is if you are traveling internationally, you should check with your carrier. So we don't have any commercial international service from Boise, but there are locations where face coverings internationally are required. And you don't want to get to Seattle, Portland and realize. When you're going someplace where you're required to wear a face covering and you don't have one.

PRENTICE: Well, I will be one of those passengers for this holiday weekend. I always actually look forward to the Boise Airport, especially when I visit other airports. So thank you so much for what you do. And thanks for giving us some time this morning.

HUPP: Thank you, George. I appreciate the invite. I hope you have a wonderful trip this weekend and we'll hopefully see you again over the summer.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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