Monterey Peninsula Airport Hoping to Draw More Flights and More Travelers

Unfortunately, the airlines won't drop rates until there's more flights and more passengers, and many passengers won't buy more tickets until prices drop.

It's a chicken-and-egg kind of thing.

More passengers on flights at Monterey Peninsula Airport would bring more routes and lower fares. And lower fares and more routes would bring more passengers.

But the airlines won't drop rates until there's more flights and more passengers, and many passengers won't buy more tickets until prices drop.

The "best dusty little airport," as Monterey Peninsula Airport General Manager Tom Greer affectionately calls it, doesn't aspire to be an international hub airport.

"We know what we are -- we're not trying to be something we're not," he said.

What he wants is to bring more flights and more travelers into Monterey's airport at modest rates on both accounts.

Greer, along with airport officials and representatives from the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is meeting with members of Monterey County's tourism and travel industry this week to boost the airport's visibility and viability.

On Wednesday, Greer, Kent Myers, president and managing partner of Airplanners LLC, a consulting firm contracted by the airport, and Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau officials met with a small group of hotel and travel industry officials to explain their "Fly Monterey" campaign.

Launched in April, the campaign enlists local businesses, government and community organizations in a marketing and promotion effort to boost awareness of the airport's services, and in particular its recent flight additions.

At the time, the board allocated $300,000 to the Fly Monterey campaign, and in September, the airport was awarded a $500,000 federal grant to further promote its cause.

The Small Community Air Service Development grant, from the U.S. Department of Transportation, was one of three grants awarded in California, from a pool of 84 grant proposals, said airport spokeswoman Jennifer Donat. The intent is to promote air carrier service to airports that present a plan for promoting community air service in markets with insufficient air service and high airfares, she said.

The grant requires a public-private partnership where the community matches 20 percent of the grant amount, through either in-kind or cash contributions.

At several meetings this week, airport and Monterey Convention and Visitors Bureau officials tried to explain how local businesses could support the effort.

Participating in Fly Monterey can be as simple as adding a tag onto a hotel's e-mail replies announcing Monterey Peninsula's flights, or adding a link to the airport on a destination's Web site. Or it could mean making sure information about airport service is visible on restaurant tables, in hotel rooms or lobbies, or through stickers added to outgoing mail. For that matter, the message can be passed along through in-house TV, newsletters and paycheck inserts.

So far, Fly Monterey's campaign has included bus ads, local media and cinema advertising, and promotion on a growing number of Web sites and e-mail tags.

Greer said they met with Laguna Seca raceway officials Tuesday and planned to meet with rental car representatives and local chambers of commerce.

One of those attending Wednesday's meeting, Asilomar Conference Grounds conference sales manager Jacqueline Martin, said she hadn't considered promoting the airport in any of those ways, but would be willing to support the campaign.

A key issue is "leakage," explained Myers -- those 73 percent of travelers lost to surrounding airports such as San Jose, Oakland or San Francisco, who are willing to travel a bit further in exchange for lower fares or more flight options than Monterey can offer.

"You will always pay a premium of some kind to fly Monterey," he said. But the benefits are that by flying from Monterey, one doesn't have to lose hours of driving time to get to those cities.

To the airline industry, Myers recommends that premium remain under $75 per ticket. Priced much higher, he said, most travelers will opt for the longer drive.

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