The Issue is Air Service

LANSING, MI - This year’s annual National Air Service Conference, hosted here by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and its Great Lakes Chapter, drew some 75 attendees and included a comprehensive agenda focused on flushing out the...


LANSING, MI - This year’s annual National Air Service Conference, hosted here by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and its Great Lakes Chapter, drew some 75 attendees and included a comprehensive agenda focused on flushing out the challenges and best practices related to enhancing and sustaining passenger air service.

Hot topics included gaining credibility as an air service development professional, presenting airport markets to air carriers, airline economics, and capacity discipline.

Coinciding with the Air Service Conference was the Ground Handling Initiatives Workshop, which outlined how to create efficient and cost-effective ground handling services (both above and below the wing). Attendees of the workshop discussed options airport operators have regarding the provision of ground service operations through the airport operator, FBOs, airport/airline service companies, or through partnerships formed by the airport, carriers, and ground service industry.

Gaining credibility; presenting the market

When it comes to discussing the possibility of adding service by a new carrier, panelists stress the importance of knowing the airline partner’s business model, and being able to relate the value of a particular airport market beyond what the carrier may already know.

Comments Sabre Consulting director Brad DiFore, “Be very focused on your actual catchment area, and be realistic; don’t be overly broad.”

Says Justin Meyer, air service development manager at Kansas City International Airport, “Having been on the airline side of the table, I can tell you the airlines want to know how every piece of data you present can be useful to them.

“Don’t show them that Wal-Mart is your top employer; don’t tell them about McDonald’s, the hospital, the school district, the post office ... because the propensity to travel for those employees is not as high as what you want to be communicating; tell them what companies are headquartered in your region, or who has large offices there.”

Expense forecasts are really difficult, relates DiFore, because an airline’s expenses can never really be understood completely. “Most carriers say to leave expenses out, and focus on the revenue,” he says.

“The problem is if you’re way off with your forecast, you have totally sabotaged your credibility on the rest of the presentation.”

For presentations to carriers, use standard font sizes and styles, adds DiFore. “It doesn’t reflect on the quality of the analysis but it reflects on the professionalism of the organization; you should always focus on maintaining a consistent style,” he says.

“Every market has a story ... no airline planner should know your market better than you. Turn the data into analysis; that’s the key.”

Adds Meyer, “One of the most important pieces in achieving and maintaining credibility is in knowing what service has the potential to work, and what is likely to not work, and to be able to communicate that clearly to the carrier. It’s critical to be able to step back and say, this does not likely have the potential to succeed at this given point in time.

“You are still building relationships; what may not make sense for a particular carrier could make great sense for another, and should that air service professional end up at another airline in five years, you’ve got a head start in that relationship. People in this business move around, and your credibility will travel with them.”

Load factors tell a very small part of the story, explains InterVISTAS Consulting’s Kevin Schorr. “[Load factors] are always relative. You need to know if there’s enough revenue on the plane to cover the costs; load factor doesn’t really say that. Southwest and Allegiant can get away with a much lower load factor than Delta or US Airways, for example.

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