Courting of airlines lands more service |

Courting of airlines lands more service

John Seelmeyer

The business of wooing new air service to Reno/Tahoe International Airport begins and ends with a cold, hard look at the numbers.

The challenge for airport executives is to get the right set of numbers in front of the right set of eyeballs.

Increased service from the airport, which currently offers 87 daily flights to 17 destinations, is a priority for airport executives, representatives of the tourism and gaming industry and business travelers who want more direct flights.

The airport in recent weeks won a couple of small victories once-a-week direct service to Newark during the ski season, once-a-week direct service to Detroit through the summer.

Thomas Medland, the airport’s director of marketing and air service development, said in an interview that the recent announcements show that efforts by airport executives are paying off.

“We have made unprecedented progress,” Medland said.

“We’re feeling really good.”

Priorities for new service, he said, include San Diego the largest market on the West Coast without direct flights from Reno as well as Vancouver and the busy hubs of Atlanta and New York.

Reno/Tahoe International Airport faces fierce competition from airports large and small across the United States when it makes its pitch to airlines.

The carriers, after all, have a limited number of aircraft and want them trolling the most profitable routes.

As a starter, the airport relies on As a starter, the airport relies on analysis prepared by The Campbell-Hill Aviation Group Inc., a consulting firm based in Alexandria, Va., that works with airports, airlines and cities across North America.

Using Department of Transportation data, Campbell-Hill Aviation Group generates historical information on air travel between Reno and other cities.

The company then estimates how much that travel would be stimulated if direct flights were available.

Campbell- Hill then predicts the how full flights serving Reno might be, and sometimes estimates the potential profitability of the route for an airline.

Medland and other airport executives don’t necessarily expect airlines to believe the figures prepared by Campbell-Hill.

“If we can get them interested enough, then they will do their own analysis,” he said.

If the airline’s study shows a flight serving Reno is potentially profitable, local officials work to seal the deal with a variety of incentives.

The Regional Marketing Committee, a group representing the ski, tourism and gaming industries in the Reno and Lake Tahoe region, this year has a budget of $200,000 to provide promotional help to airlines serving the region.

When Continental Airlines was making its decision to offer ski-season service between Reno and Newark, for instance, the Regional Marketing Committee and Ski Lake Tahoe pledged to support the service with advertising in national publications and promotions among ski enthusiasts in New Jersey.

Candace Duncan, the head of the marketing committee and executive director of the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said improved air service is a priority.

“It affects all of our bottom lines,” she said.

“We need to have good access to the region for tourism as well as business.”

The airport, meanwhile, can provide its own incentives through agreements to waive landing fees temporarily for new service.

Medland said the airport won’t offer upfront cash to airlines.

“We don’t we have to,” he said.

“Our real strength is the numbers themselves.

We have a good product to sell.”

When it comes time to nail down a deal, Reno/Tahoe International Airport often enlists the support of top-level executives from the region.

The theory, Medland said, is that airline decisionmakers typically, vice presidents of schedule planning like to deal with other decision-makers.

“It really helps our credibility when we are able to do that,” Medland said.

One of the executives who has actively joined with airport executives is Chuck Alvey, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

“Our role is to help the airlines understand our business development efforts and how that will benefit them,” Alvey said.

“Just saying we need more air service is futile.We need to demonstrate the need based on the airlines’ business models.”

And while Reno already has good air service compared to similar cities across the United States largely because of the tourism industry Alvey said further improvements are critical to EDAWN’s efforts to woo new industry to the region.

The cooperative efforts of business and tourism groups by themselves are impressive, said Duncan of the Regional Marketing Committee.

“This has been very gratifying for me to see our region pull together like this,” she said.


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