“We have a good partnership with the management at the airport; that’s critical,” says Brophy.
Explains airport director Bateman, “There is a great deal of affinity and support for Midwest, because it’s based here, and because it offers a lot of non-stop service. As the hometown airline, Midwest has been able to develop many corporate alliances in the region”
Regarding the growing competition for market share between AirTran and Midwest, Bateman says time will tell.
“There is a fare war between them because they fly to a lot of the same cities,” says Bateman. “Right now they are both surviving, which is great for us because the consumer has the opportunity to take advantage of excellent air service with very good fares.”
Because of the level of air service at Mitchell, says Bateman, the airport is careful to take care of the service it has and is doing what it can to ensure the airlines see a profit. Interestingly, there will be four airlines with non-stop service to Denver this summer; something Bateman says is unheard of.
In terms of airport competition, Mitchell’s primary competitor is Chicago O’Hare. “We draw passengers from the smaller airports of the region; we also draw from Rockford [IL]. But we lose to O’Hare; a good amount of our international traffic goes to Chicago to catch non-stop flights.
Pat Rowe, marketing manager at Mitchell International, says that with most of the airlines, the airport has entered into cooperative marketing agreements in which Mitchell matches funds to promote and advertise air service.
“We target our marketing efforts in the northeastern Illinois counties and the northern Chicago suburbs,” says Rowe. “The area’s new customers can be drawn from is a 45-minute drive from here; Lake and McHenry Counties in Illinois are communities that fly consistently.”
While it’s been some time since Midwest has opened up a new market, Brophy relates that the carrier has worked with Mitchell in the past on marketing initiatives targeting Northern Illinois.
Rowe says the airport utilizes a mixture of web, print, and broadcast advertising, as well as other types of “guerilla” marketing tactics. A particularly novel approach to marketing took place last year when the airport hired a skywriter to fly over a Chicago Cubs/White Sox baseball game, writing “skymailme.com” high above the stadium. The gimmick was intended to draw potential customers to a unique website which promotes Mitchell as a hassle-free alternative to flying out of Chicago’s O’Hare. “That was a wildly successful campaign,” relates director Bateman, who says the ploy generated more than $1 million in media exposure.
Additional marketing initiatives include the flymke.com website, which complements the airport’s original website, mitchellairport.com. The flymke.com website focuses specifically on targeting the Northern Illinois market. Included on the website is a fare calculator which adds additional fees such as parking to the total fare, giving travelers a side by side comparison of the price difference of flying from Milwaukee versus Chicago.
Mitchell Airport has also purchased advertising on the Orbitz website. The ad rolls up when the website recognizes a customer looking to fly out of O’Hare. The ad encourages travelers to try Milwaukee, then automatically compares fares between Mitchell and O’Hare.
“There is a vast difference in the parking rates of the two airports,” says Rowe. “As a result of last year’s marketing efforts to the northern Chicago area, we had some 18,000 more Illinois plates in our parking lots.
“We focus on that region because it present’s a major opportunity for us.”
Rowe explains that it’s a new world order in terms of the media now that everyone purchases tickets on the Web. She says that’s where the airport wants to be, stating, “We have just touched the surface of that; ideas are in the works for more innovative approaches to marketing the airport.”
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