A national shortage of rental cars has been challenging travelers in recent months, and those who can find a vehicle are often paying twice as much as they were before the pandemic.
While passengers arriving at Missoula International Airport are not alone with their frustration at the lack of rental car options, the airport is taking steps that it hopes will alleviate the challenges.
Brian Ellestad, the airport’s interim director, said big companies like Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and others will continue to do business at the facility. But the airport is also working to diversify its offering and recently approved a deal with Turo, one of the country’s leading car sharing companies.
“Competition is key to driving rental prices down,” said Ellestad. “Turo will be more app-based and meet the driver.”
Through an app or online, customers can book a car with Turo for specific dates and times, as well as from specific airports and other locations. The lessor of the vehicle then hands the car over to the lessee. From there, they can use it according to their contract with the host.
The deal with Turo is one of several steps the airport has taken to address the rental car crisis and massive price hikes. The shortage has angered travelers across the country, and hit tourist destinations like Maui and Denver the hardest.
Car rental agencies across the country are running out of cars or doubling prices on the few vehicles they have left. Many sold their fleets to survive last year’s pandemic. A shortage of computer chips has also exacerbated the problem.
In Missoula, a recent price review found that airport car rentals ranged from $ 134 to $ 460 a day.
In addition to transporting Turo to the airport, the facility has also signed a contract with Missoula Nissan.
“It’s another customer offering,” said Ellestad. âThey’re designed for adventure-style vehicles. They offer ski racks in winter and kayak racks in summer. Competition is good. We see that with the airlines and we also see that in the car rental industry. “
The recent additions aren’t the first time the airport has responded to rental car agencies. In 2018, charges by car rental companies at Missoula International Airport of price gouging prompted the facility to terminate its rental agreements before renewing them the following year.
After months of rumors, the problem surfaced in August when airport authorities considered Corpat Inc. and its plan to sell its Alamo National car rental counter to Enterprise, raising concerns that a single company could monopolize the airport’s car rental business .