Eclipse Gazers Flock to Car Rental Counters

Spectators watch the solar eclipse at the top of the parking structure at Oregon’s Portland International Airport. Photo courtesy of Therese Chapdelaine-Irons.
Spectators watch the solar eclipse at the top of the parking structure at Oregon’s Portland International Airport. Photo courtesy of Therese Chapdelaine-Irons.

This week, people traveled from around the nation and the world to various parts of the U.S. for the coast-to-coast total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

It had been 99 years since America’s last coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 1919. The last eclipse in the continental U.S. took place in 1979. From Oregon to South Carolina, a total of 14 states were in the path of totality, including Nebraska, Illinois, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Auto Rental News talked to a few car rental companies to see how it went with the influx of travelers.

In Oregon, more than 17,000 cars were expected to be rented from Portland International Airport over a three-day period for the solar eclipse, according to the Port of Portland. Travelers flew into Portland and rented cars to travel to Salem and other areas in central Oregon, including Madras.

Therese Chapdelaine-Irons manages the Dollar Rent A Car location at Portland Airport. For her company, Saturday and Sunday were among the busiest days for travelers picking up vehicles.

“Planning involves all of the preparation before the event and now getting the cars back is the other piece to it,” she said. “We are expecting most of the vehicles to be returned on Tuesday the 22nd and Wednesday the 23rd.”

The airport has been proactive in creating plans to deal with the increase of rental returns, according to Chapdelaine-Irons. The top floor of the parking lot — which is a public parking floor — was cleared and opened for overflow car rental returns. “This will help keep the entrance roadways clear when the regular rental return areas fill up,” she said.

Spectators wait for the eclipse at Portland International Airport. Photo courtesy of Therese Chapdelaine-Irons.
Spectators wait for the eclipse at Portland International Airport. Photo courtesy of Therese Chapdelaine-Irons.

Due to concerns about overbooking, the week prior to the eclipse was also busy with customers calling Dollar to confirm their reservations.

“People were very anxious; many had planned for this event way in advance,” said Chapdelaine-Irons. “Customers wanted to call and be reassured their car would be waiting for them. Dollar and other operators successfully met reservation expectations. Our partners at the Port of Portland were instrumental in making this a successful event for all of the car rental companies and their customers. Eclipse glasses were even provided for many travelers.”

Jon Torgerson, a Rent A Wreck franchisee in Black Hills, S.D., had some people book cars to drive to Casper, Wy., to see the full eclipse.

“We are a tourist destination with Mt. Rushmore 30 miles away, so we get busy here in the summer,” said Torgerson. “The eclipse is just one more opportunity to rent cars. I had a lot of Sunday reservations, and we are not even open on Sundays. I attribute those to people wanting to drive to see the eclipse.”

Jeff Neuenschwander, an Avis Budget licensee in southwest Missouri, didn’t see an increase in reservations. “We are about two hours from the path of the total eclipse,” he said. 

Across all airports in South Carolina (Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Savannah), Enterprise Holdings locations saw a double-digit increase in reservations for a three-day period leading up to the eclipse, according to Laura Bryant, corporate communications for Enterprise Holdings.

Comment On This Story

Name:  
Email:  
Comment: (Max. 10000 characters)  
Please leave blank:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.

 
 

Newsletter: Sign up to receive latest news, articles, and much more.

Read the latest

Auto Focus Blog: A blog covering fleets, auto rental and the business of cars

What a Connected Fleet Means to Avis (and Car Rental)

Counter bypass is just the beginning. The promise of a “data-driven ecosystem” that connects renters with the rental agency, retail services, and even the city is a better managed fleet, an improved user experience, and new revenue opportunities during the rental itself.

Should Peer-to-Peer Renters Pay Airport Car Rental Fees?

The question is central to the City of San Francisco’s lawsuit against Turo for operating without a permit at San Francisco International Airport.

Hard Times Ahead for the Compact SUV Segment?

The hottest segment today is facing a glut of models and volume in tomorrow’s wholesale market.

Job Finder: Access Top Talent. Fill Key Positions.

>