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With A Little Boosting Bradley Airport Can Take Off


July 27, 2012

Recent discussions about the long-term expansion plans for Bradley International Airport made me think about the motivations people have for choosing one airport over another and what the new Connecticut Airport Authority might do to attract more passengers right now.

For most people, airfares are the prime motivation. To compete with other airports' lower prices, the authority needs to make Bradley a more convenient, fun and comfortable travel experience. If people "like" the airport, they will want to use it, show up earlier, relax and spend more money.

So airport officials should promote what is already good, and invent what makes it better. Here are 10 ideas to develop and market

No. 1 Bradley bound planes are virtually never delayed other than for weather or problems at their embarkation point, and virtually never put in a holding pattern. When I am flying home, that's a great comfort.

No. 2 Bradley's terminals are easy to get to. Highway traffic on I-91 near the airport is rare. The access and airport roads are not congested.

No. 3 Indirect travel costs should be highlighted as offsetting lower fares elsewhere. Convenient, walk-to-the-terminal parking is nice, but budget minded people like me use off-site, $5-a-day parking with a convenient parked-car-to-terminal shuttle for one-third to one-half the price of the state garage. The drivers help load and off-load my luggage. In New York or Boston, that type of parking service runs $20 to $30 a day.

No. 4 Just as equipment manufacturers do with their dealers and distributors, the new airport authority should provide co-cooperative advertising money to private businesses that have to match the money 50-50 to qualify. Private parking operators could spend their co-op money advertising their Bradley off-site parking lots. They don't qualify for the co-op money if they advertise any other parking services in the same ad. Private transportation companies could spend their co-op money advertising limousine and multi-passenger shuttle services specifically for bringing passengers to and from Bradley.

No. 5 Because the airlines are not doing it, the airport authority should build its own, beautiful airport club with higher levels of service than in the public concourse. Individuals can buy a membership, but companies can easily earn free memberships based on the frequency their employees travel. Amenities might include quiet work areas, public relaxation areas with TVs, food and beverage services, a gym, yoga room and showers.

No. 6 In each terminal there should be an ATM, plentiful free WiFi and power outlets.

No. 7 Frequent traveler programs that earn points toward parking, limousine services or club memberships should be implemented.

No. 8 In the public concourse, set up a stage and music area with food and beverage services. Bring in local bands and musicians to entertain the passengers while they wait for their planes.

No. 9 Luggage is a hassle. The new airport authority can help set up a convenient luggage "ship-ahead" transfer business in conjunction with the United States Postal Service. Anyone traveling with a lot of luggage, golf clubs and little children, or if they are elderly, knows how beneficial that would be. Right now it's up to travelers to make those arrangements on their own at a high and non-competitive rate. The new airport authority could contract with the USPS (which needs the business) for better rates to provide door-to-door luggage services.

No. 10 The airport authority should start a campaign to contact by phone, in person, electronically and by mail the largest 2,500 employers within Connecticut and Massachusetts as far east as Worcester to promote Bradley's conveniences.

Without relying on the airlines to lower airfares, all of these convenience and comfort programs can be acted upon today. Travelers will have more reasons to choose Bradley. Doing so will create more demand on the airlines to compete with each other to offer more direct flights to more destinations, at better rates and on bigger planes.

The airlines, state, new airport authority and consumers all win.

Mark Merrill owns a direct-mail company in Manchester.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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