Last week, Dave Young and I traveled to Las Vegas for World Routes 2013, a major conference that brings together airlines from all over the world to talk to airports about potential flights and improved service. While a lot of what happened in Vegas has to stay there for now, I can say that our trip will hopefully result in benefits for our region in the coming years.
Over the course of two days, we had 16 one-on-one meetings with airline scheduling planners from both the U.S. and around the world. We met with carriers that serve RDU today and many who don’t. The meetings are “speed dating” style, with a 20-minute time limit.
The short amount of time meant that we had to go in with information and facts tailored to each airline.
Some of the meetings were at the invitation of a specific airline. For others, we made the request in order to introduce our airport and our region. No matter what the condition of the economy or aviation industry, or how far the world of digital communication advances, personal and direct business relationships are more valuable today than ever before.
As we’ve said before, airports are competing worldwide with one another for new service as airlines have reduced the amount of available seats, or capacity. At RDU, we’re focused on improving service in the following ways, each of which we discussed with airlines at the conference.
New Routes and Markets. This is the news that everyone gets most excited about, but it is rare, especially in today’s tight economy and stiff competition. Planning and cultivating a new route, especially an international one, can take many years.
However, we’re working very hard on new service markets. Our top destinations domestically include Austin, New Orleans, Kansas City, Seattle, Portland, San Diego and San Juan. Internationally, we see a second European flight to either Frankfurt or Paris as the most viable.
Improved Frequencies and Timings. Recently, we announced that United Airlines will be launching a second daily flight to San Francisco for a few weeks over the year-end holidays. Delta will be adding seasonal frequency additions to LAX throughout the year as well. Increases in frequencies like these are great short-term goals for our airport. When an airline decides to add additional flights, it shows confidence in the market and that demand is there to be filled.
We also work with airlines to make the case for adjusting the timing of flights already in place to provide better one-stop connection times to make it easier for you to reach your final destination.
Equipment upgrades. In aviation terminology, equipment refers to aircraft. We work with airlines to upgrade the aircraft on various routes by either changing the size or type of plane that serves a route or to an airplane that has better amenities such as Wi-Fi. These changes often come at the direct request of you, our customers.
Hopefully, what we discussed with the carriers in Vegas will result in announcements for our region one day soon. But at the very least, we’ve sown seeds of interest in RDU that will cultivate new opportunities for you and our region.