Boise Airport added Spirit Airlines to a growing roster of commercial air carriers. Spirit’s first outbound flight from Idaho left Friday to Las Vegas, Nevada.

The first Spirit flight arrives with a water cannon welcome to the Boise Airport from Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

The first Spirit flight arrives with a water cannon welcome to the Boise Airport from Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

smiller@idahostatesman.com

Spirit Airlines, recognizable by its bright yellow planes, touched down Friday afternoon for its first flight into the Boise Airport to launch the low-cost air carrier’s new nonstop service between Las Vegas and the Treasure Valley.

Spirit’s August start represents the first time the South Florida-based airline has operated commercial service out of the regional air hub. The daily round trip between Vegas and Boise runs about one hour and 40 minutes each leg, and gives travelers a fourth airline option for getting back and forth from Sin City.

“We’re very excited to be here,” John Kirby, Spirit’s vice president of network planning, said Friday during a ceremony held at the airport. “So finally, the thing I’ve been wanting to say for a long time – and probably would have said much sooner if not for this darn pandemic – is, ‘Boise, you now have Spirit.’ “

Spirit adds Boise amid JetBlue takeover

The low-cost airline’s arrival now gives the Boise Airport its eighth commercial carrier, after Southern California-based Avelo Airlines joined the growing roster in May. Aha! airlines, headquartered at the Reno-Tahoe airport, also is scheduled to begin service locally starting at the end of the month, which will boost Boise’s total to nine air carriers.

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The first Spirit flight arrives with a water cannon welcome to the Boise Airport from Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. Sarah A. Miller smiller@idahostatesman.com

“It is wonderful to see Spirit join us here at the Boise Airport,” Boise City Council member Lisa Sánchez said in remarks at the ceremony. “It’s wonderful to see that our city is growing and that we are attracting more airlines like Spirit, giving our community more choices in their travel options.”

Spirit’s first outbound flight from Boise was nearly full, and advanced bookings have been strong to date, airline officials said. But the discount airliner’s Boise launch comes at an interesting moment for Spirit.

Spirit announced last week JetBlue Airways’ intention to buy the company for $ 3.8 billion. For several months, Spirit and Denver-based Frontier Airlines also were in talks about a potential merger, with that agreement finally falling apart a day before the JetBlue-Spirit deal was disclosed.

Just in April, JetBlue, headquartered in New York, pulled its service from Boise after a single-year experiment offering summer service to and from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. That route ended for the season last September, after a three-month run for the nonstop East Coast flight.

If approved by federal regulators, the combined airline would become the fifth-largest in the US, at about 9% market share, JetBlue said in a news release. The airlines expect the acquisition to be wrapped up by no later than the first half of 2024.

The US market’s four-largest commercial airlines include American, Southwest, Delta and United, with American Airlines controlling the biggest stake, according to Forbes. Each of the four airlines also operates at the Boise Airport.

“We believe we can uniquely be a solution to the lack of competition in the US airline industry and the continued dominance of the Big Four,” Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s CEO, said in the release announcing the planned acquisition. “By enabling JetBlue to grow faster, we can go head-to-head with the legacies in more places to lower fares and improve service for everyone.”

Alaska Airlines, which is the Boise Airport’s primary air carrier, stands at about 5.6% of the US market share, as of April 2022, Forbes reported.

For now, it is unclear what the planned JetBlue-Spirit merger could mean for the combined airline’s tenure in Boise. Friday’s launch is part of an expansion for Spirit in the Western US, including the recent start of service in Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and Reno-Tahoe.

“It’s too early to speculate about air service in 2024,” Erik Hofmeyer, a Spirit spokesperson, told the Idaho Statesman by email. “But I do want to emphasize that when we enter markets, it’s our intention to stay for the long run. We’re proud of our track record that clearly supports this. “

JetBlue did not respond to a Statesman request for details about the acquisition’s potential effect on the combined airline’s future operations in Boise.

Kirby on Friday told the Statesman he couldn’t speak for JetBlue, nor they for Spirit, and his airline was focused on pushing forward to thrive in its newest destination.

“It’s a market that I think will like our low fares and our quality service,” Kirby said in an interview. “I’d look to put more planes in Boise if this service is successful as well.”

Boise Airport grows, breaks records in travelers

Avelo, which started service on May 24 between Boise and Southern California’s Hollywood Burbank Airport, reported that its 189-seat planes are better than 75% full on average.

“The volume of customers flying with us is very healthy at the moment,” Jim Olson, an Avelo spokesperson, told the Statesman by phone. “We’re excited about what we’re seeing, especially in the summer season.”

So far this year, the Boise Airport has posted its highest-ever passenger totals for four straight months, from March through June, according to airport data. Those numbers put the airport up more than 5% for travelers year-to-date compared to 2019, which remains its most ever at more than 4.1 million. Should this year’s pace continue, the airport would break its prior record.

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Crews unload luggage from the first Spirit Airlines flight arriving to the Boise Airport from Las Vegas on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. Sarah A. Miller smiller@idahostatesman.com

To celebrate Spirit’s inaugural flights in and out of Boise, the airline also made a $ 20,000 donation to Global Gardens, a local charity that provides community garden spaces for Boise-area refugees to grow fresh produce. The 18-year-old program is an offshoot of a partnership between Jannus, Inc. and the Idaho Office for Refugees.

“One thing we know about Boiseans, and folks in Idaho in general, is that we are generous people. We take care of each other here in the city of Boise, we identify as a welcoming city, ”Sánchez said. “So to see that Spirit has entered our community by showing up with a gift, by making a donation to a nonprofit here in Boise… it really touches my heart.”

This story was originally published August 5, 2022 5:07 PM.

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Kevin Fixler is an investigative reporter with the Idaho Statesman. He previously covered local government, environment and transportation at The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, and the Summit Daily News in Breckenridge, Colorado. He holds degrees from the University of Denver and UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
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