Serving the Under-Served

Consumers drive a hubbing mentality at VPS

Donovan relates that one rental car company had $556,849 in gross sales in May alone, and fuel pumped went from some 378,000 gallons to 629,000 gallons in one month. “We had an $84,000 increase in concessions [a 46 percent increase from May 2010],” he adds.

“More than 30,000 passengers in May were Vision passengers; the majority of the recent increase in activity here is either related to its passengers, or the competition that it has inspired.”

A partner airport

“We don’t have a mandate or a list of must-haves when we go into a market, but we try to look for a leadership from the airport that understands our goals, understands our model, and will help us be a success in that community,” says Maloney. “That can be a variety of different things, whether it’s marketing, local support, or consideration of fees.

“In some of these markets we have had a lot of success; for example, if you talk to someone like Greg Donovan, where they just really became our partners locally and really helped open doors … they transferred the data into real local knowledge.

“It’s about helping us understand what works and making it a win/win for everybody.” Vison has done some co-op marketing with different airports.

When it comes to shared-use functionality, Maloney says it helps but it is not primary. Donovan relates that the old style of having assigned gate and ticket counters is quickly becoming obsolete. “We’re adding a 6,000-square foot addition to the terminal, but all of it is shared use,” he adds. “It gives us flexibility, especially when having that less-than-daily type of schedule … to use gates the most efficient way possible.

“Although we are adding on to the terminal space, the goal ultimately is to keep from having to make large capital investments in space … if you can utilize what you have more efficiently, the property managers love it, and the airlines love it.” The airport partnered with AirIT in providing a shared-use infrastructure platform.

When it comes to servicing aircraft, Maloney relates that the carrier has seen locations with turnkey packages for a flat fee to do above and below-wing services, such as Chattanooga.

“Those are great solutions, especially for some of these airports that get less traffic,” he says. “It’s either us servicing the aircraft, or the Chattanooga-type model, or some third-parties in other locations.”

Service details

On customer service, Vison offers the Loyalty Club program. “We think it’s kind of a new concept we hope will be well received; so far it is,” remarks Maloney.

“Instead of accruing loyalty points, members will now be able to use the membership to get discounts and benefits at whatever destination they are going to. We are really launching it in the Destin area, and it includes attraction discounts.

“It allows people to pass on savings into their vacation and allows local businesses to get some residual benefit from Vision being in town.”

With regard to fleet type, Vision is focused primarily on two types of aircraft, the Boeing 737 and the Dornier 328. “Distance is a factor, market size is a factor; the shorter routes and smaller cities were some we selected for the 328s and the longer routes and bigger catchments were the focus of the 737s,” explains Maloney.

Says Donovan, “Vision announced that it is scaling back some cities, but this is on the heels of starting service to five new cities June 1st. What happens with a company like Vision ... it will dial in what works; it’s not going to stay long in markets that aren’t going to make the bottom line for it as a business.”

Business threats include fuel and the economy, says Maloney. “The nature of our business being aviation ... there is always some curve ball out there that you can’t plan for but just have to adjust.

“It is certainly an evolving and dynamic industry; we think the competition and consolidation will create new opportunities for us whether that be through partnerships with some of the other carriers, or it be in routes that were previously served, or in creating new routes.”

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