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Boise rolls out new incentives to attract new airport destinations

Boise Airport officials hope some incentives will help Idahoans take off to new destinations.

This week, Boise City Council approved a revamped Air Service Incentive program to try and lure new airlines and flights to more destinations for Boiseans. The program started in 2013, but this new version adds updated incentives and targets destinations like Orlando, Honolulu, Boston, Anchorage and other Idaho airports.

[Passenger counts at Boise Airport still well lower than pre-pandemic level]

The program hopes to sweeten the deal for airlines to expand services to Boise with offers of free marketing and credits toward airport fees. Airport Director Rebecca Hupp said Boise’s growth alone already attracted multiple new expansions, but this will help Boise compete.

Jet Blue announced new flights from New York City to Boise in recent weeks, even though they don’t qualify for any new incentives.

“It tips the scale in our favor, but it probably won’t be a deciding factor for an airline,” Hupp said.

Hubs, longer routes a priority

What incentive an airline can qualify for depends on if it’s a new airline, a new destination or if the flights will be offered year-round or only seasonally. Expansions into “target markets” also receive more benefits than expansions into new destinations not on Boise’s wishlist.

Interested airlines must apply for the program. Qualifying airlines must offer direct flights to a new target market for at least 90 days or a new unserved market for a full year. A new market is one that Boise Airport has not had a connection to for a full year and has no current flights.They will be paid out of the airport’s enterprise fund, not Boise’s tax dollars.

She said the competitive markets Boise is hoping to expand into include large business and leisure travel destinations, like New York City, and hubs so travelers can easily connect to more destinations. Hupp said another focus for the incentive program is trying to make Boise competitive to get expansions from further destinations, which are more difficult to snag because of the route length.

Even with the pandemic slicing air travel dramatically, Boise managed to add multiple new destinations in recent months. This includes a twice-weekly flight to Nashville starting in May and a daily flight to Atlanta.

Hupp said she wants to try and bring as many more airlines online as possible, but because Boise is already well served it might be difficult.

“Keep in mind, four carriers control about 80% of all domestic passenger travel in the US and we have 8 airlines in Boise,” she said. “That tells you there aren’t that many additional new carriers we can recruit.”

New service means a big boost

For a new flight from a target market connecting to the City of Trees year round, airlines can bring in up to $125,000 in landing fees, terminal rent or a combination of the two. The companies can also qualify for up to $50,000 of marketing incentives and up to $25,000 for a second year. These funds provide the qualifying airlines with advertising on Boise TV, radio, websites and public relations campaigns to advertise the new service to the Treasure Valley.

The marketing campaigns must be approved by the Boise Airport before they can be reimbursed and they must be specific to the service.

Service to a target market for a part of the year could net an airline up to $75,000 in landing fees, terminal rent and a combination of the two over two years. A maximum of $50,000 in marketing incentives is available for the first year.

Airlines bringing new flights to destinations off of the target market list qualify for up to $75,000 in landing fee and terminal rent credits for a year and another $50,000 in marketing. Seasonal destinations off of the target market list are eligible for up to $25,000 in marketing for the first year.

A new airline coming to Boise can get an additional $25,000 on top of the other incentives listed above along with another $25,000 in marketing.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.
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