Recruiting new air service is like a running a marathon. It takes a long time, a steady pace and a healthy dose of patience to attract an airline to establish or expand service at your airport. And, in this marathon, I just completed a very distant leg of the race.
Recently, I was in Edmonton, Canada. Edmonton is perhaps known best in our region as the home of the Edmonton Oilers, the northernmost team in the National Hockey League. Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), which is a major trade group representing airports, chose Edmonton to host one of its semi-annual Jumpstart conferences.
We’ve shared about these conferences before. They’re akin to speed dating the airlines. Weeks in advance, we submit a list of airlines we’d like to meet with and the airlines submit a list of airports they’re interested in speaking to. ACI-NA does the matching. Over the course of a two-day period, you receive a number of guaranteed one-on-one meetings with airlines without having to travel to each company’s corporate headquarters.
There, more than 2,400 miles from RDU, in 20 minute private meetings, I had the opportunity to meet with a number of airlines. Some currently serve RDU and others don’t. I talked to them about launching new routes from our wish list and about improving service on routes they currently operate. I had some very engaging discussions and honest conversations.
While my trip didn’t “seal the deal” on additions to our route map or increases in the number of flights to our destinations, I did move all of our conversations with airlines forward. Air service recruitment is a marathon and the important thing is that we had face time with the airlines, as well as an opportunity to put RDU in the front of their minds.
Our region is strong. Our data showing the need for new and expanded flights is very strong. Our potential for future growth is strong. In today’s aviation environment, we’re competing with every other airport in the country for new and expanded service. And while our data shows the potential for profitable service, another airport may have even stronger data, which means even more profit for the airline.
One way RDU is working through this reality is by reaching out extensively to businesses throughout the region. I am meeting constantly with corporate executives and travel departments to help understand where and how often their employees travel. This information strengthens our case even more for new and expanded service from our airport.
Working together, we can continue to make strides in this marathon. Do you travel frequently for business? Is there a route that interests you? Let me know in the comments below.