Routes Americas 2012 – Airport-Airline Relationship Building at its Best

As the newest member of the SimpliFlying team, the past month has already been a whirlwind and now I am about to jet off to Nassau, Bahamas for Routes Americas.

Routes Americas is a gathering of airlines, airports, aviation service providers and industry experts focused around air service development. With a constantly changing and evolving industry like aviation, the people in our great industry are always on the move, figuring out what direction to grow, what direction to stop growing and, quite simply, what to do next.

The focus of the Routes Americas event, and similar events that take place throughout the year, is often analogized with what common culture refers to as “speed dating.”  These meetings sometimes lead to new air service but most importantly allow airlines the opportunity to meet with multiple airports over the two-day period and to get a feel for what each community could bring to the table if the airline were to consider service.  Airports get the chance to wow the airlines with news and updates on their communities and even send the airline planning reps home with cool, memorable marketing trinkets.

As a former, small airport, marketing and development director, this will be the first “speed dating” event where I will not have any “dates” set up and I am looking forward to watching from the sidelines and getting a different view of the dynamics.  I am excited to listen in on the Live Airline Briefings; five airlines, five very different market segments, five (hopefully) open briefings, complete with live discussion on airline brands and upcoming plans for route development in the Americas.

From European charter carrier, TUI and full service European carrier British Airways Carrier, to two US low cost carriers (Allegiant and Alaska) and a Latin American Full Services carrier (TAM) we should have a pretty good program ahead of us.
What is the TAM growth strategy for the Americas and how is the LAN merger playing into that?  TAM currently only serves three cities in North America but perhaps the merger will open up new west coast opportunities.

Will British airways share any insight into the strategy for London Gatwick following their purchase of BMI slots at London Heathrow?

Allegiant Air has become a well-known domestic leisure carrier over the past few years, providing a unique vacation product at low fares, but international strategies for this carrier are still in development and Keith Hansen is expected to update us on next steps.

We reached out to a few aviation insiders to hear their thoughts on the upcoming briefings and the expectations seem to shadow my own: Candid, honest airline insight.

Justin Meyer, Manager of Air Service Development at Kansas City International Airport, is specifically looking forward to Ben Munson’s Alaska Airlines briefing. Alaska launches new nonstop flights between Kansas City and Seattle just three weeks after the event concludes.

From Justin’s perspective, “airline strategies are changing more frequently than ever before and the airline briefings at Routes Americas will provide air service professionals with the latest updates from airline decision makers, allowing airports to ensure they are on the same page with current and potential airline partners.”

Routes Americas, similar to many other route development conferences, is a channel for airports to access airline planners, creating priceless networking opportunities which help to build relationships and foundations for successful partnerships.

I wanted to hear a bit more about airline expectations from the conference, so I got in touch with Ben Munson, Manager, Network Planning at Alaska Airlines to find out more about what they hope to gain from participating in the live airline briefings. Ben shared with me that he too is looking forward to the opportunity to meet with some unique airports/markets in the Americas. Ben is hoping to reach a larger audience during the briefing and to answer questions, to free up time in the one-on-one meetings for sharing the non-generic details with airports.

Ben’s tip to airports going into Routes Americas – “Share the information that is not easily accessible from our sources.” Airline planners can pull standard DOT data and OAG schedule data all day long – use the one-on-one meetings at Routes to sell your community and provide the unique insight that the planners can’t pull from a database.  Community wins, local business trends; share what makes your community unique and a great fit to the network strategy.

Brad DiFore, Managing Partner at Ailevon told us that he specifically hopes to find insight into the non-U.S. carriers.

“My hope is that they (the carriers) provide some candid insight as to the direction of their networks.  I think that oftentimes airline planners are so close to their own network and the constantly evolving nature of their plans/priorities, that they assume outsiders know what their priorities are.”

Sunshine + industry news and updates + airline/airport networking time– sounds like I have an exciting few days ahead of me.

Are you attending Routes Americas? We want to hear about your Routes Americas 2012 experience first hand.

Keep a look out for SimpliFlying while in Nassau to share video accounts of your Routes experience. SimpliFlying will be on deck throughout the conference to help document the takeaways of this fantastic development forum.


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