Panel Discusses Impact of Mergers

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By Christine Cusatis, Editor, Centerlines
“We are used to dissapointment in Cleveland,” Todd Payne, Chief of Marketing and Air Service Development, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, said of the city’s hard-luck reputation during a Tuesday session on airline mergers at the 2013 ACI-NA Marketing and Communications Conference in Atlanta.

Kevin Healy, of Campbell-Hill, gives the history of airline mergers.

Following the merger between Continental and United, the message was clear: The former Continental hub at Cleveland was not safe unless it generated revenue for United. A city with a long history of playing defense, decided it had to go on the offense to keep United. With that, the Greater Cleveland Partnership took action, launching an awareness and education marketing campaignn still in existence today (www.unitedforthehub.com).

“This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon that hopefully will not end anytime soon,” Payne said of the effort.

Rick Atkinson, Airport Director, Charleston Yeager Airport, provided the small-airport perspective of airline consolidation. “All mergers are not created equal,” he said. Overall, he described legacy carrier mergers as “net positive” for the airport. Less favorable was the merger between Southwest and AirTran, which he dubbed a “major financial blow.”  With that merger, Yeager lost AirTran and its non-airline revenue dropped by $500,000.