[Archive Home][Date Prev][Date Next][Index]
"Mineta San Jose airport seeks new ways to court airlines"
Sunday, June 19, 2011
San Jose airport seeks new ways to court airlines
By John Woolfolk
The San Jose (CA) Mercury News
With flights still down more than a third despite a $1.3 billion makeover
unveiled last summer, San Jose's airport wants to send a new message to
Officials at Mineta San Jose International want the City Council to approve
spending $1 million over four years on two marketing firms to pitch airlines
on adding more San Jose flights. Among the proposed strategies is harnessing
social media sites such as Facebook.
"We are behind the curve on social media at the airport here," said airport
spokesman David Vossbrink. "We have to learn how to play that game. I can't
tell you that social media by itself will get us more flights. It's a tool.
We have to be part of that conversation."
But Mayor Chuck Reed is skeptical of the approach and has called for putting
off Tuesday's scheduled vote on contracts with Barnstorming Advertising and
Hoffman/Lewis until August. Along with three other council members, he wants
to refocus the contract work to ensure it targets airline decision-makers.
With the airport slashing spending everywhere to contain costs and avoid a
further flight exodus -- even planning to replace San Jose police at the
airport with lower-paid sheriff's deputies -- Reed is leery about sinking
money into an uncertain marketing venture.
"What I don't want is to spend a lot of money on a campaign that doesn't get
us more flights," Reed said Thursday at a meeting of an airport committee
that he heads. "It's about getting the message to the right people. I don't
know if these people have a clue about airline CEOs."
San Jose is in a quandary with Mineta San Jose International Airport. As the
city grew in the 1990s dot-com era to become the self-proclaimed Capital of
Silicon Valley, its airport remained a retro-relic where passengers exited
jets on rolling stairways like in those black-and-white photos of the
Beatles on their first U.S. concert tour.
After slipping behind Oakland International in passenger traffic about a
decade ago, San Jose in 2005 was forced to scale back a more ambitious $4.5
billion airport makeover as passenger traffic stalled and airlines hit
Now with bills to pay for the newly completed project, the city finds
airlines struggling amid the turbulence of fuel price spikes and a weak
economy. Since 2007, San Jose airport has seen its scheduled flights fall 35
percent and passenger traffic drop 25 percent.
To avoid losing more flights, airport officials say, it's crucial to keep
costs to airlines in check, both by keeping a lid on expenses passed on to
carriers and drawing more passengers to boost revenue.
After cutting airport staff by half, outsourcing janitorial work and moving
toward doing the same with the airport's police and firefighters, airport
officials say they simply need more business.
Mineta San Jose would seem an easy sell -- a newly modernized airport, free
Wi-Fi in a stylish terminal with a futuristic robot sculpture, all in the
heart of Silicon Valley. The airport even offers $1 million worth of fee and
rent waivers as incentives for new flights.
With more flights lost than passengers and planes now packed, the numbers
suggest pent-up demand. And San Jose has fewer weather and congestion delays
than San Francisco.
But persuading airlines to put major flights in San Jose has proved vexing
as "incremental" successes are often offset by losses, Vossbrink said.
Southwest Airlines recently added a new flight to Austin, Texas, for
example. But it merely replaced one that Alaska Airlines dropped.
Vossbrink said the airport wants to land a "game changer" such as direct
service to Asia and Europe or more nonstop flights to the East Coast -- or
perhaps a new airline such as Virgin America.
Reed traveled to Japan earlier this year to court All Nippon Airways, which
the city hopes will add a San Jose flight once it gets a new order of
jetliners later this year.
Vossbrink said Mineta San Jose could harness social media not only to
improve customer outreach and service, but also to build consumer pressure
for airlines to add San Jose flights.
"Some airlines are very active in new media," Vossbrink added, citing
Southwest and Delta as examples. "Airlines have recognized that's where the
Reed, however, wants to ensure that the city doesn't waste time and money on
"roundabout stuff." He says there are fewer than 100 people in the industry
who decide where the planes go, and he wants San Jose on their radar in a
The mayor recalled that Dallas/Fort Worth International officials brought
along the famous Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders to South Korea in 2008 and left
with a new weekly Korean Air flight from Seoul to their airport.
"We don't have cheerleaders," Aviation Director Bill Sherry protested.
But Reed was undeterred: "We could round up a squad."
Asked Saturday whether San Jose's own SaberKittens, cheerleaders for the
SaberCats of the Arena Football League, could help bring more flights to San
Jose, Reed said it's hard to tell. But the mayor said he'd be open to the
"Is it that they were the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, or is it they're
cheerleaders?" he said. "I just don't know. That's one of the mysteries of
this whole flight business."
Do you have an opinion about this story?
Share it with other readers in our CAA Discussion Forums
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
If you have any queries regarding this issue, please Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org