Colorado Springs Airport has chalked up good scores in the airport-competition game, and a new marketing effort aims to keep the flights coming.
“Airline boardings are critical for us,” said Mary Collins, the airport’s director of marketing. “Airlines go where they can make money. We have to keep the flight service we have and add [passenger traffic], or new airlines won’t come here. It’s use it lose it.”
Since the airline industry’s post-Sept. 11 collapse, the industry has struggled to regain lost traffic and revenues. But the Colorado Springs Airport has rebounded faster than other regions, and in March reported a 36 percent increase from last fall in total airline arrivals and departures.
From October’s 88 daily flights in and out of the airport, March traffic jumped to 120 daily. Those numbers haven’t been seen since the heady days of low-fare flyer Western Pacific and the July 1997 peak of 98 daily arrivals and departures—37 of them by Western Pacific.
Experts attribute the local economy as driving the rosy air traffic numbers, and since December, the airport has attracted Vanguard and Allegiant Air to boost its roster to 12 commercial carriers and stabilize March year-to-date passenger counts at 232,000— down just 3.6 percent from last year. But skittish economic news seems to be delaying Kentucky’s Sunworld International from lowering its landing gear here as it had announced, and the popular, low-fare Southwest Airlines continues to be the always-shy girlfriend.
So the airport continues to work at wooing passengers to use Colorado Springs Airport and build passenger numbers. It sent Cukjati Design & Advertising of Colorado Springs into the game as a new hitter after putting the account out to bid last year. Based on an $11,000 marketing study ordered by Cukjati in February, the airport launched its new $400,000 marketing campaign in April under the tag line, “Fly quick. Fly easy. Fly everywhere.”
The campaign will use print, radio, and TV media primarily in the Pueblo to Monument region, reflecting the shift in market area from the WestPac days when travelers would drive from Denver to fly out of Colorado Springs to save big money.
Even with a recent Department of Transportation study showing Denver International Airport flights costing about 25% more than other comparable airports and flights, the difference in time and travel costs likely won’t change marketplace dynamics anytime soon, according to the marketing study.
“We know we serve southern Colorado,” Collins said, so the marketing messages are being directed to potential travelers here to remind them of the convenience, cost-savings, and amenities at Colorado Springs Airport.
Frequent-flyer preferences and fares drive business-traveler flight and airport choices more than convenience and local amenities, the marketing study indicates. So the advertising addresses the anxieties of those who fly less and aims to position the airport as the friendly hometown alternative.
These less-experienced flyers, who may be intimidated by the long drives and hassles of a larger airport and who haven’t established an airport preference, are the most likely candidates for quick passenger-traffic boosts, according to the marketing study’s recommendations.
Conducted by Lisa Haight and Patty Vaughan of Strategic Marketing Solutions, the marketing study revealed that only 7 percent of frequent flyers fly from either Denver or Colorado Springs, and the rest have already decided their airport preference. Preferences usually are based on how close customers are to an airport and how easy it is to use.
The marketing confirmed travelers’ high satisfaction with Colorado Springs Airport employees’ courtesy (especially the parking-lot shuttle drivers), gate accessibility, airport safety, convenience and decor.
Flyer dissatisfaction at the local airport has more to do with airlines than the airport: higher fares, few alternatives for cancelled flights, limited availability of non-stop and direct flights, and the limited number of flights to different cities.
Other key findings:
1. The majority of frequent flyers (65.5 percent) have used the Internet to book at least one trip in the past year, and approximately half still use travel agents or book directly through airlines.
2. Having flight departure and arrival times available on local cable television is a perceived benefit, but few leisure travelers know about it. Business and other frequent flyers generally call airlines to check on flight schedules, but there is a need for less-personal information access.
3. Travelers are interested in a discount coupon program for local restaurants, hotels, and shopping malls. One third said they would have great interest in this, with an additional 31 percent indicating some interest— mostly all from southern Colorado. Travelers without frequent-flyer affiliations are significantly more interested (72 percent) than are “elite” frequent-flyer members (55 percent).