Dec. 28--Efforts to land more airline service at Atlantic City International Airport will be complemented by a new $500,000 advertising campaign to attract more travelers amid a sharp decline in passenger traffic this year.
The 2014 advertising plan has been approved by the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the state agency that owns the airport. Another agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, serves as the airport operator and has been trying to lure more flights.
Representatives of both agencies were unavailable Friday to discuss the advertising strategy. In the past, print, radio and TV commercials promoted Atlantic City International as a low-cost, less-congested alternative to the major airports in Philadelphia and Newark.
Through November of this year, the airport has suffered a 21 percent decline in scheduled passenger traffic compared with the same time in 2012; the downward trend has been blamed on the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy. Since 2010, the airport has handled about 1.4 million passengers annually.
Although Spirit Airlines currently is the only carrier serving Atlantic City, the airport has reached agreement with United Airlines for daily flights from Chicago and Houston starting April 1.
United will start modestly, flying just one flight a day from each city using small, 50-passenger jets. Airport supporters hope the Houston and Chicago flights are just the beginning of more service to come from United or other airlines.
"We want to see something beyond what we have now -- a 50-seat plane flying in from Houston and Chicago," said state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic. "That's a small step in the right direction. But that's not where we ultimately want to be."
A new program that taps funding from Atlantic City's casino industry will offer airlines a series of financial incentives in return for new domestic flights or international service. Incentives include marketing support for the new flights and the waiver of landing, fuel, rental and ground-service fees normally charged to the airlines.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a state agency funded by the gambling industry, has committed $2 million to the airline-incentives program, which was announced last week. In addition, the casino industry's Atlantic City Alliance marketing coalition is contributing $300,000 to help launch the incentives program and is expected to double the amount later.
At the same time efforts are underway to attract more airline service, the South Jersey Transportation Authority plans to make upgrades to the airport's passenger terminal to enhance safety. Among them, old-fashioned analog surveillance cameras dating to the 1990s will be replaced with more sophisticated digital models.
Citing security reasons, airport officials have declined to disclose how many new cameras will be installed or give their locations other than to say they will be scattered throughout the terminal and in the parking lots. Schneider Electric of Horsham, Pa, has been awarded a $188,000 contract to install the cameras.
New cameras will add one more layer to the airport's security network. As with other airports nationwide, Atlantic City International has heightened its surveillance, passenger screening and other security measures since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In a project unrelated to security, the transportation authority has hired a contractor to install a new roof on the passenger terminal. The nearly $900,000 project will be done by Union Roofing Contractors Inc. of Philadelphia.
Contact Donald Wittkowski:
Copyright 2013 - The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.
For now, it seems the airport's future is tied to the development of more retail, dining and entertainment attractions to complement the casino hotels.
Domestic year-round flights could see landing fees, common use fees, fuel fees and ground landing fees completely waived.
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