Boise airfares spike as airport prepares for new flights after record-breaking year

Flight prices are up across the U.S. as travelers have dusted off their luggage following the lull caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and returned to the skies, and Boise is no exception.

Since 2021, airfares have jumped by an average of $86 nationally, according to a report from USA Today Blueprint, the publication’s financial bureau. The Boise Airport has risen to near the top for cost hikes with an average increase of $125, which ranked No. 7 among the U.S.’s busiest 100 airports, the analysis showed.

The price spike in Boise represents a 42% increase in 2023 when compared to 2021. The national average was about 29%, the report said.

Between 2022 and 2023, however, airfares have remained “fairly steady,” the report found.

The rising costs to fly in and out of the Boise Airport directly corresponds with a marked uptick in travelers in the Treasure Valley. Last month, for example, was the busiest December on record with nearly 400,000 passengers, according to airport data released Thursday.

Last year, the airport again broke its annual passenger record with more than 4.7 million inbound and outbound travelers, the data showed. That total surpassed the prior record, set in 2022, by more than 250,000 passengers.

“We’ve seen an 82% increase in passenger traffic over the last decade — and the last two years have been record-setting,” Boise Airport Director Rebecca Hupp told the Idaho Statesman by email. “That’s exponential growth! And that’s why we’ve been working so hard to add the infrastructure required to serve those passengers and grow in pace with our community.”

Supply and demand driving costs

Growing demand with a similar supply of flights and seats has forced prices up. Mixed with other factors, such as rising fuel and labor costs, airfares are only expected to go up, said Mike Boyd, president of the Colorado-based aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International.

“The days of real cheap fares aren’t there no more,” Boyd told the Statesman in a phone interview. “All the tea leaves are pointing to digging deeper into your wallet.”

As with the recent pricing comparison, Boise’s latest passenger record is well ahead of 2021, when the airport counted 3.6 million total passengers as it mounted its recovery from the pandemic. At that time, federal recommendations and limited restrictions against some travel were still in effect from 2020, when, like all U.S. airports, Boise experienced a significant drop in passengers, to fewer than 2 million travelers — its lowest total since at least before 2007.

Today, the Boise Airport boasts nonstop flights, including three seasonal-only routes, to 22 different U.S. cities. A handful of those flights are launching later this year.

Southwest Airlines, which offers the second-most nonstop routes among commercial air carriers at the Boise Airport, is set to add two more flights in summer 2024. File photo
Southwest Airlines, which offers the second-most nonstop routes among commercial air carriers at the Boise Airport, is set to add two more flights in summer 2024. File photo

After a brief hiatus, Southwest Airlines just restored a once-weekly flight between Boise and Long Beach, California earlier this month. The route flies every Sunday.

As temperatures rise later in the year, Southwest also is adding a daily flight between Boise and Burbank, California, starting June 4. Four days later, on June 8, the airline will return a past flight to and from Dallas Love Field.

Also in June, low-cost air carrier Sun Country Airlines will begin service in Boise with twice-weekly trips to and from Minneapolis. The Wednesday and Saturday route starts June 19.

Boise Airport officials otherwise remain focused on bringing several priority routes to the Treasure Valley: New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Honolulu, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Anchorage, Alaska. The airport consistently seeks to add nonstop flights within Idaho as well.