Gateway pushes for big-city flight demand to take off - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Gateway pushes for big-city flight demand to take off

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Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012 7:07 am | Updated: 4:11 pm, Thu Oct 25, 2012.

The Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport has successfully established a reputation for serving destinations like Minot, N.D. or Cedar Rapids in Iowa.

But the airport is concerned it’s been too successful in building that reputation.

With Gateway adding nonstop service this year to major destinations like Las Vegas and Dallas, it has launched an ad campaign to broaden its brand.

“We’re trying to get the message out in the community that Gateway isn’t just for small towns anymore,” airport spokesman Brian Sexton said.

The $70,000 print and radio campaign is based on concerns flights to larger cities haven’t taken off as quickly as they should have.

While the two airlines that serve Gateway didn’t ask for the campaign, Sexton said they didn’t discourage it either. Allegiant and Spirit Airlines won’t share booking information for specific cities. However, Sexton said Allegiant’s planes are about 90 percent full on average.

Gateway developed ads with three distinct messages.

“Gateway to high rolling” promotes Vegas, which both airlines serve. Sin City is the most popular destination from the Valley, Sexton said. It’s one of the few cities where Gateway directly competes with major carriers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

“Your Gateway to the big city” mentions the five largest destinations of Dallas, Oakland, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas and Denver.

Another ad promotes travel to hometown destinations that Gateway is known for. Those messages target Valley residents who still don’t know about the airport’s passenger service, Sexton said.

Gateway began regular passenger service when Allegiant first offered a limited number of flights in 2007. Airline officials have said passenger growth exceeded their expectations, and Allegiant has continually added flights and news cities.

Nearly 1 million passengers flew though Gateway in 2011, and this year’s projection is 1.3 million.

Allegiant offers 32 destinations. Spirit flies to Dallas/Fort Worth and Las Vegas, with continuing service to a number of other large cities like Chicago and Orlando.

Sexton said the large-market promotion also serves to reinforce that some smaller airports are doorways to substantial metropolitan areas, just like Gateway is within the major market of Phoenix.

“Instead of going to Seattle, you went to Bellingham. Instead of Chicago, you went to Rockford” Sexton said. “Those are great locations, but over four years you get the reputation for small towns.”

Gateway’s ad campaign runs most of June. The airport will later evaluate whether the effort was successful as it develops its marketing program for a new budget year that begins July 1.

Sexton said Gateway wants big-market flights to rise in popularity for the sake of the existing airlines. But strong demand will also help the airport with its goal of attracting other carriers.

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