By Caroline O’Reilly
This morning’s first session, which had the rather succinct title of “State of the Industry,” seemed an apt way in which to kick off a busy first day at ACI-NA’s trio of conferences here in Atlanta: Marketing and Communications, Small Airports and JumpStart® Air Service Development Program. Because airports need to keep nimble when it comes to marketing, whether it’s attracting new air service or engaging various stakeholders in the importance of their community presence and operations, the large legacy airlines seem to provide a cautionary tale.
All airlines, but particularly the legacies, will need to actively pursue other sources of revenue to supplement their primary passenger revenue. To put it more bluntly, in the words of session presenter George Hamlin, president of Hamlin Transportation Consulting, “If you just rely on passenger revenue, you’re going to go broke.” The same maxim is true for airports. Those airlines that have tended to be more successful in recent years, according to Hamlin, have been the smaller carriers that have better demonstrated creativity toward their bottom line. These airlines generally have been more imaginative in configuring routes and acquiring assets, in addition to attracting passengers and building brand recognition.
“The heyday of the regional jet is gone, so air service development needs to adapt,” Hamlin noted. And just like the large legacy carriers on which many of them rely, airports across North America will need to consider truly how they will transform themselves to ensure a successful future. At the very least, airports must get ahead of the airlines when it comes to communicating their importance to the public and why their markets warrant competitive service. In others words, said Hamlin, it’s time for airports to “go make some opportunities happen.”