Community Air Service – What Does it Take to Succeed?

Not All Community Air Service Revenue Guarantee Program Efforts are Successful:

In an earlier post, we talked about Community Air Service success and the airport air services in Vail and Orlando. In the case of Vail, the uneven annual demand was a challenge.  The community then implemented revenue guarantee incentives to entice winter seasonal air service. Not all communities that use these incentives, however, succeed in either acquiring air service or in effectively supporting their acquired air service.

How can a Destination Marketing Organization help manage a successful air program?

1. Community Air Service Should Understand the Airlines Point of View

Understand the Airlines Point of View

             Understand the Airlines Point of View

     a. Airlines are Driven by Profit. While a DMO wants to increase visitor arrivals and
revenue an airline’s top priority is high-yield passengers on their planes. These two
goals can often conflict so DMO’s need to strategically target passenger segments that
are also the targets of the airlines. The areas where community interests intersect with
those of the airline should be emphasized in discussions with the airlines.

     b. Airline Marketing Contributions. Airlines do not usually advertise and market on a
destination basis; oftentimes, their only contribution to filling the flights is in-kind air
tickets for promotion which, unfortunately, are sometimes unavailable. DMO’s and the
community must lead efforts to fill the flights.

     c. Limited Airline Staff. Airlines typically are lightly staffed and thus often unable to carry
out intricate activities or events to support your flights. DMO’s and the community
need to carry the majority of the flight support burden and/or make participation turn-
key for airlines if they are to meet partnership success.

     d. Airlines Interact with Hundreds of Communities. The community’s message or
requests to the airlines should be clear, simple and well-coordinated. Formalize the
community air service development effort so that you have a joint-approach with the
airport, economic development organizations, local government and other air service
stakeholders. This will yield effective and efficient results.

2. Community Air Service Should Educate and Align the Community

2. Educate and Align the Community to Drive to Full Air Service Support Engagement

Educate and Align the Community to Drive to Full Air Service Support Engagement

     a. Regularly assess if you’ve aligned Air Service Performance with Community Goals. In
trying to develop air service, adhere to the principle: “if you don’t measure it, you can’t
manage it.” Determine periods of softer air service and allocate and/or reallocate resources
and marketing focus accordingly. This will help you to better support your community
flights and help you keep or grow air service.

     b. Create Realistic Air Service Expectations. Make sure that you have realistic and
reasonable air service expectations and that the members of your community
understand these expectations.  In this way, the community’s actions can focus on
effective support activity.

     c. Instill an All Hands On Deck Support Approach. When multiple community air
service stakeholders understand that they also have a role in supporting air service,
they can use various synergies to turn a lackluster program into a successful
community air service program.

3. Community Air Service Should Develop Air Service Benchmarks

Develop Air Service Benchmarks to Better Assess and Manage the Performance of Your Community Air Program

Develop Air Service Benchmarks to Better Assess and Manage the Performance of Your Community Air Program

      a. Set measurable benchmarks that are meaningful to the airlines. Increasing flight
load factor to a level that does not also increase airline profits will have little impact on
sustaining or growing your air service. This kind of growth is unsustainable and can
damage your air program efforts and/or drive a larger community air service
investment to meet growth objectives.

     b. Set measurable benchmarks that take into account your community funding
support. Strive to set performance goals that you can sustain financially. When you
have effective return on investment and cost per passenger type goals set, air program
growth will be sustainable.

     c. Set measurable benchmarks that meet long-term community air service goals.
Adopt a “feed it or shoot it” mentality with your air program. If a flight does not meet
or exceed performance goals either cut that air service market or increase your
investment and support of that market to exceed your goals.

4. Community Air Service Should Set-up a Community Air Service Investment Base

Set-up a Community Air Service Investment Base     that can Drive Long-Term Funding Sustainability

Set-up a Community Air Service Investment Base that can Drive Long-Term Funding Sustainability

     a. Involve as complete a group of air service stakeholders in funding as possible.
This will not only help you meet the necessary financing to achieve air service
development goals, but it will also spread the financial burden so that each
organization will be able to keep up with their level of financial contribution.
Remember, the sum is always greater than its parts. Funders also show more
ownership of air service results.

     b. Set funding levels that will help meet long-term goals. If part of your funding will
come from a local sales tax, lodging tax or similar mechanisms, be careful about
setting the tax rates and predicted revenues from these taxes.

     c. Create funding mechanisms that are directly connected to the benefits of the
service program. If tourism is the main driver of air service use, tie the tourism tax
level to the funds needed to expand service, and the estimated increase in tax
collection to the budgeted support of those flights to get to a sustainable situation.

If you want your community to meet a strong long-term air service growth like Orlando or Vail, two very successful leisure air service dominant communities, follow these guidelines in managing your community air program.  It does take a community effort to fully tap into your current air service demand and/or build up this air service demand to realize your aspirations for your community airport.

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. Community Flights specializes in helping tourism dominant air service communities maximize the return on their air service investment. Scott formed Community Flights in January 2013 to help mobilize community support efforts and guide communities and 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 . Contact Scott Stewart directly at


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  1. Pingback: Strategic Air Service Support and Community Tourism Organizations

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