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"Expert praises service efforts at local Florida airport"



Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Expert praises service efforts at local airport
By CHRISTOPHER COLE
The Bradenton (FL) Herald


SARASOTA - Improving customer service ranks as one of the top priorities for
the airline business, an industry expert told airport managers Monday.

The expert also said officials who run airports like Sarasota-Bradenton
International must be realistic about what they can do to affect service.

"You're always going to be in the shadow of Tampa - you can't do anything
about that," said Michael Boyd, a widely known Colorado consultant to the
airline industry. "It doesn't mean the airport has failed in any way. You do
have good air service."

Boyd said there's not much more the local airport can do at this point to
upgrade service levels.

"It's a great terminal. Someone has spent the money they need to," he said.
"Just recognize the realities of the situation: This is a co-gateway. It
fills a good role."

Boyd was responding in an interview in Sarasota, where he joined the Florida
Airport Managers Association as a keynote speaker at the group's annual
conference.

The gathering, which continues through Wednesday, is being attended by
airport executives from around the state to look at trends and issues in the
air travel business. Florida's 84 largest commercial and general aviation
airports were expected to be represented, an association official said
earlier.

Boyd's remarks, made at the West Coast Symphony Hall, focused on the
ever-contentious issue of airline customer service.

As Congress gets more involved and consumer advocates push the industry for
reforms to protect passengers, Boyd said, the airlines need to take a fresh
approach to service.

Unfortunately, according to Boyd, airline companies too often focus on
short-term shareholder value and not nearly enough on customers. "It's the
leading cause of why people are angry today," he said.

Congressional fixes clearly aren't the answer, he said, pointing to the
Passenger Fairness Act, which Boyd said creates imaginary problems and then
legislates to fix them.

Boyd also predicted more travel options in the future, but not necessarily
lower fares.

Despite arguments in favor of airline mergers, Boyd said, such deals tend to
reduce competition, employment and service.

Boyd also said the airline industry is consolidating and that fewer and
fewer new entrants to the market will survive. They're viewed as poor
investments, he said.

Airport managers heard from several other speakers, including John R.
Powers, a motivational speaker, educator and novelist, and from a roundtable
of government officials, including:


William J. Ashbaker, manager of the aviation office for the Florida
Department of Transportation, on state budgeting matters affecting his
office.

Carolyn Blum, southern regional administrator for the Federal Aviation
Administration, on safety programs and the incidence of runway incursions
nationwide.

W. Dean Stringer, manager of the Orlando Airports District Office for FAA's
southern region, on the process of receiving grants.

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