The number of flights in and out of the Boise airport increases Friday. Airport officials say Delta will begin flying new routes to and from Seattle as part of the airline’s west coast expansion. But there’s one route that continues to elude Boise travelers – a direct flight to a major east coast hub.
Boise’s business community has made adding a direct flight to the eastern U.S. a top priority. The city applied for and last year received a federal grant that Boise can use to help recruit a carrier to provide a direct flight to Atlanta or New York. The money would be paid to an airline if a company adds the flight, but the route doesn't meet revenue goals.
But so far, Delta - the carrier the city has targeted - won’t commit. Airport Director Rebecca Hupp has said the company contends it doesn’t have enough planes to add the service this year. And even next year, the flight may not come to fruition over concerns about distance, fuel costs and demand.
“Just because we received the grant, is not a guarantee of the additional service,” Hupp says. “It’s an additional incentive. The market needs to carry its own weight…on the merits on the demand for the service.”
Airport managers say it’ll be next summer before any potential service could start. The grant is worth $700,000 and is good for two years.
Hupp says connecting Boise to an eastern hub is a “difficult proposition” for carriers. Airlines have to be sure demand will make up for the unusually long route that only certain, larger jets can make.
It means for city and business leaders clamoring for the increased access, the wait for direct east coast service continues.
“We are always disappointed when we are not able to recruit the service that our community would like to see,” Hupp says. “But we’re not surprised by that. There are a number of hurdles associated with implemented a longer route like that. That is one of the reasons we thought it was important to have the grant to help support that route.”
In light of the Atlanta delay, Hupp is now looking more closely at possible service to New York. Boise can only use the federal funding to secure a direct route to those two cities because of the way the grant application was written.
This month’s additional service to-and-from Seattle is the latest increase in capacity in Boise. New flights to Spokane are scheduled to start in August. Hupp says the number of destinations and flights available to Boise travelers has been increasing since late 2013, but that options are still well below peak levels in 2007 and 2008.
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