Strong Current Air Service: Where Air Service Acquisition Should Start
To Gain New Air Service Your Incumbent Air Service Needs to Work!
Strong current air service. If your community doesn’t have strong current air service knowing this can help turn your focus to supporting your community flights. This the best community first step to gaining new air service in this situation. If you pursue new air service while your incumbent air service is doing less than well, or you can’t answer the question: “Do we have strong current air service,” you are jumping the shark and hurting not only this near-term effort but damaging your long-term community air service development prospects.
The question “Do we have strong current air service,” is likely to get a positive response if your community is acting more like Yakima, Washington and Gunnison, Colorado and not Klamath Falls, Oregon. It means you’re proactively focusing on increasing community awareness and engagement with your current incumbent air service instead of prematurely pursuing new air service acquisition.
When Yakima answered the “Do we have strong current air service” question a year ago they started a community awareness program (Fly YKM Campaign) that focused on building-up usage of its current flights. Yakima flights had produced a 59% load factor. Through the FLY YKM efforts over the past year load factor increased to 73%. From recent discussions with Alaska Airlines, Yakima appears close to regaining some air service it lost over the last few years.
Gunnison, Colorado also answered the “Do we have strong current air service” question by focusing on air service support. Gunnison has highly seasonal air service that had seen many years of capacity decreases. Last winter Gunnison began a Fly GUC campaign as well as initiating other programs like the Gunnison Airfare Club that put local traveler attention on the local flights in a positive way. The winter 20122013 load factor of 62% increased to 72% in winter 20132014 leading to an air seat capacity increase of about 5% for this coming winter 20142015. This defies a trend of over 6 years of consistent capacity decreases at Gunnison due to low load factor and revenue performance.
Klamath Falls, Oregon had seen a consistent decline in capacity the last three years from about 64,000 seats to 42,000 seats until this June 2014 when air service on United ceased altogether. Klamath Falls appears to not have asked the question “Do we have strong current air service”. Their decline followed many years of low load factors below 70% which also had a declining trend over these years. The focus for this community for most of this decline period was on getting new flights and not focusing on making the flights they had work first – through community flight support and awareness campaigns. They did eventually start these support efforts but unfortunately for Klamath Falls the flight support efforts began only months before they lost all their commercial air service. Klamath Falls, by not asking and answering the question “Do we have strong current air service”, focused their efforts on attracting new flights instead of putting more support into the flights they had. They lost their commercial air service.
Asking and answering honestly “Do we have strong current air service” is a critical first question to ask so you can appropriately direct your focus to new air service pursuit or current air service support. For communities not performing well, if you focus first on driving comparatively strong air service performance with your incumbent air service you can then later acquire new air service.
Almost every community recognizes the economic benefits that come with good air service access. Profitability of your air service alone isn’t the magic bullet for capturing new flights. Recognizing the competitive nature of the many communities wanting new air service and insuring that your community air service portfolio is strong comparatively will help make sure you win out over competing communities for new flights.
If you invest in supporting your current air service and don’t take this for granted you will likely end up doing well with your air service. When you out compete most other communities then you will be able to answer “Do we have strong current air service” in a positive way.
Community Flights has developed over 35 best practices and guiding principles for communities looking to improve their air service. The above is just a small sample of a complete guidebook of best practice.
If you’d like to receive the complete guidebook for FREE: Community Flights Air Service Development Best Practices and Guiding Principles, email: [email protected] and ask that we send the full guide.
Scott Stewart is the principle of Community Flights; an air service support, development and management company. Community Flights works with communities, organizations or businesses on leveraging the great economic asset that air service is for economic gain. Scott formed Community Flights in January 2013 to help mobilize community support efforts and guide clients in bridging the “air service understanding gap” with the airlines to create an airline and community win-win air service support and performance environment. You can find more info about Community Flights at www.communityflights.com. Contact Scott Stewart directly at [email protected] .