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CAA: Airport Marketing & Public Relations, "Airport competition heats up"



Thursday, February 7, 2002

Airport competition heats up
By Bob Driehaus
The Cincinnati (OH) Post


The friendly pitchman touts low air fares on television commercials,
billboards and print ads throughout Greater Cincinnati.

But the airport he's promoting isn't Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky
International Airport in Hebron. It's discount fares at the struggling
Louisville International Airport, 100 miles down Interstate 71.

The TV ad campaign began Jan. 14 and will run through the middle of
February. Billboards have been posted since October, and another television
blitz is planned in spring, said Bill Rawlings, Louisville airport marketing
director.

''Southwest Airlines will tell you their passengers will drive an hour and a
half or two hours to take advantage of lower fares,'' he said.

Airports in surrounding cities, including Louisville and Columbus, have long
advertised in the Greater Cincinnati market. But expensive television
campaigns like the one Louisville began last month are less common.

Indianapolis International Airport does no advertising in the Greater
Cincinnati market, Public Affairs Director Dennis Roseborough said. But a
license plate count in November 2001 indicated 4 percent of people who
parked at the Indianapolis airport came from Ohio and Kentucky.

''Ohio had the second-largest number behind Illinois, but when you combine
Ohio and Kentucky, it's almost the same as Illinois,'' Roseborough said.

The Louisville campaign stemmed from a steep drop-off in business at the
Louisville airport after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

''We are still down because of Sept. 11,'' Rawlings said.

Passenger traffic plunged 33 percent in September and was down 11 percent in
December, he said.

In response to the slump, Louisville is trying to lure customers from
Greater Cincinnati and Lexington.

Grabbing even a small percentage of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport's
business would mean a big increase in business at Louisville, which has
one-fifth the flights of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky.

But Rawlings said he has no hard statistics on the effectiveness of the
campaign.

''We just hope,'' he said.

A Southwest Airlines spokeswoman said the airline does not track statistics
about how far passengers drive to fly, but people who come from afar are a
significant part of Southwest's business.

''It is somewhat common for customers to drive a long distance to one of our
airports to take a Southwest flight,'' she said.

The primary market for Louisville Airport in Greater Cincinnati is leisure
travelers looking for a good deal, Rawlings said.

''We have no way of tracking it. We just know through license plates in the
parking lot,'' he said.

The reverse is true among business travelers, said Ted Bushelman,
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky spokesman.

''If you look in our parking lot, there's an awful lot of Louisville
business travelers that come up here,'' he said.

The lure for business travelers is the number of direct flights, Bushelman
said, instead of having to fly to other hubs from Louisville.

''People have a right to go wherever they wish, and if they think they can
get cheaper fares somewhere else, I can understand that,'' Bushelman said.
''But if you want to fly direct, we have 110 direct flights.''

The Louisville campaign has not affected Comair at Cincinnati/Northern
Kentucky, according to the airline's spokesman, Nick Miller.

''I think the kind of service that we offer appeals to the biz traveler to a
very large degree,'' he said. ''We're not really noticing anything (related
to the Louisville campaign). We've noticed that our passenger loads have
continued to make an improvement.''

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