Air alliances take off quickly
Network 2007 at the TradeWinds resort gives airport delegates a chance to woo airlines.
By CHRISTINA REXRODE
Published March 6, 2007
In a plush meeting room at the TradeWinds resort in St. Pete Beach, hundreds of people face one another across dozens of tables covered with white cloths. They lean forward and talk animatedly. Some are meeting for the first time, some for the 100th.
Representatives from airlines across the world are settled on one side of each table. They're the darlings today, here for free, listening to the wooings of the airport delegates, who have paid as much as $1,200 each to come and humbly ask for 15 minutes of their favorite airlines' time.
"This is speed dating with the airlines," said Noah Lagos, director of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
It's also a taste of how airlines now decide where to send their planes.
Airline Business of the United Kingdom, a globally published trade journal for airline executives, organized this three-day meeting between airlines and airports, which it calls Network 2007. This year's meeting has attracted about 325 representatives, up from about 250 last year.
Lagos said it's a sign that airports are getting more aggressive about attracting new service.
Mark Pilling, editor of Airline Business, said it's a sign that the business relationships between airlines and airports are getting increasingly sophisticated. Ten years ago, he said, such networking meetings didn't take place.
"There's always been a lot of science behind it (deciding where airlines should fly), a lot of data behind it, but the way they used to do it was more ad hoc," Pilling said.
Trudy Carson, a Tampa International Airport executive who travels the globe to attend similar meetings, said this was the first airline networking meeting in the Tampa Bay area that she could recall.
Carson said meeting locally makes TIA an easier sell. "Usually we're trying to tell people, 'Now, do you know where the Tampa Bay area is?' " Carson said.
She planned to meet with about a dozen airlines at the TradeWinds, including startup Virgin America. Meetings like this helped TIA persuade Spirit Airlines to expand to San Juan, Puerto Rico, she said.
This is the seventh year that Airline Business has held Network, and the fifth year that it has held the event in Florida.
Pilling said that the proximity of two airports here, each with vastly different business models, helped draw organizers to the bay area instead of Orlando, Sarasota and Fort Lauderdale, the previous locations.
Network 2007 drew three new international carriers, Pilling said: British Airways, Panama-based Copa Airlines and Air India.
The St. Petersburg airport is talking to a German carrier, Lagos said, as a result of a previous "speed dating" meeting.
[Last modified March 6, 2007, 06:33:44]
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