BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Airport is gearing up for the summer travel season--and they say this could be the busiest one they've ever seen.
“The Boise Airport expects this summer could be the biggest passenger level season in history," said Sean Briggs, Business Development Manager with the Boise Airport.
An uptick in travel
Last year, every aspect of our lives came to a screeching halt, forcing industries like airline travel to adapt.
Passenger numbers at the Boise Airport were down nearly 50% in November 2020 compared to November of 2019. In November 2020, 172,008 total passengers traveled through BOI, according to data from the Boise Airport. In November 2019, 337,480 passengers went through the Boise Airport, a 49% difference.
The Boise Airport set a record for passenger traffic in 2019 with more than 4.1 million people traveling. Briggs stresses we're not quite there, we could be by the summer.
"We're not back to where we were in 2019 passenger levels right now, but this summer that could change," Briggs says.
Airlines flocking to BOI
In the past 6 months, the Boise Airport has seen a bunch of new flights, including to Atlanta, Palm Springs, Orange County.
Starting this summer, the airport will begin non-stop services to places like Nashville and New York City. Alaska Airlines is adding nonstop flights from Boise Airport to Chicago and Austin, Texas, the airline announced back in March.
"Airlines are really looking at markets where they can grow and have more passengers traveling to," explained Briggs. "Boise is well-positioned as a mountain region with access to open space, and it's really a growing region with a great economy."
As Idaho News 6 has previously reported, Idaho's economy is rebounding faster than almost anywhere in the country--that could lead to an even bigger boost, with more travel.
"We're seeing about 10-15% more seats in the market than last summer, and typically that means an increase of tourism into the Boise region," Briggs said.
Car rentals scarce ahead of travel season
With new car shipments delayed, there has been a higher demand for used cars.
The increased demand and limited supply have now created a shortage of cars across the country. Earlier this year, Idaho News 6 covered some of the complications local dealerships were facing as a result and learned the car rental industry is also impacted.
When the pandemic first hit, car rental companies sold up to 40% of their fleet to stay afloat as travel rapidly decreased and people weren't leaving their homes. Now, as consumer confidence grows and people are more comfortable traveling, car rental companies are struggling to meet the growing demand for rentals. That's forced people to spend almost double to secure a reservation.
Know before you go
The Ada County Clerk's Office is now offering U.S. passport services by appointment. Passport appointments are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Each appointment will be scheduled for one hour and passport photos are available through the office.
Whether you're planning to travel out of the country or stay a little closer to home, the Better Business Bureau says it's important to do the following:
Research travel restrictions.
Travel restrictions vary by state and country, and they are constantly changing. Visit the U.S. State Department’s "Know Before You Go" page and the CDC Travel Planner to get up-to-date information on any COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
"Do you need to show that you have had a COVID vaccine or a negative COVID test? Those are things you need to know prior to getting to your destination," explained BBB's Rebecca Barr.
Know the risk of purchasing discounted tickets.
There are plenty of deals on flights. Unfortunately, discounted tickets rarely provide refunds and will likely charge you if you cancel or reschedule. Be willing to pay extra for fully refundable flights, car rentals, and accommodations.
Understand what travel insurance covers.
Purchasing travel insurance is wise, but it may not cover every situation. You have the option to add insurance directly with the airline when you purchase your ticket, or you can purchase travel insurance from a third party. Those two options are not one and the same. The level of coverage varies, so choose the plan you are most comfortable with. Read the fine print to understand how your policy works. The BBB says hiring a travel agent to help you navigate the process may not be a bad idea either.
How scammers are trying to cash in
If you're a frequent flyer, you're probably looking into renewing your Trusted Traveler programs--things like TSA precheck or Global Entry.
But frequent flyers be warned. Better Business Bureau is receiving reports about a scam con-artists are using to steal your personal information.
"Con artists are putting up fake websites that look like a real government-issued website and they're asking for your personal and financial information," explained Barr.
Barr says these sites may charge you the cost of the application fee, plus a hefty service fee to cover the cost of their “help.” In addition, you’ll be asked to fill out forms with sensitive, personal information including your full name, passport number and home address.
Even if you pay up, the company may never submit your application form through the correct channels, Barr explains. You will have lost money and shared your personal information with scammers.
Consumers told BBB Scam Tracker that the websites are very convincing.
“When I clicked on the link, it appeared to be an official TSA Precheck site,” one victim reported. “This company asked for all the information as I would expect to provide in the process… including your full name, passport number and home address. Then, you are prompted to pay $140, making it seem I was paying for TSA fee.”
How to protect yourself
Barr says the best way to protect yourself is to always double-check the URL before entering ANY information. Secure links start with [https://]https:// and include a lock icon on the purchase page. In the United States, all government websites end in “.gov.”
To add an extra layer of protection, the BBB recommends buying with your credit card online. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, Barr explains.