Feb 23, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal
Members of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority marketing department went to the Routes Americas conference in Puerto Rico last week to meet with airlines — and potentially court new ones.
The annual conference is one that the JAA attends every year, saidBarbara Halverstadt, director of marketing. In addition to corporate visits, she said the JAA attends conferences to grow service from Jacksonville, maintain relationships and keep up conversations between airlines it's courting.
Halverstadt said she had meetings with domestic and international airlines, as well as with other airports, to talk about strategies and what might be a good opportunity.
Going to the conferences has paid off: When Jacksonville had a flight to Denver with Frontier Airlines, the conversations that brought that flight started at a conference in Dubai.
The nature of the conferences provide a platform where the Aviation Authority can meet with several parties all in one day and allows for several different types of meetings to take place.
“It gives us the opportunity to talk our current carriers and talk with carriers we have on our radar,” Halverstadt said. “It also gives us the opportunity to see with some and help them become more familiar with our area and we sell the region.”
Having those types of conversations can be invaluable, she said. At one of these conferences, she had a meeting with an airline that was so unfamiliar with Florida, it asked if Jacksonville had a beach.
“Sometimes they're not aware where we are and they're not aware we're a huge business market,” she said. “They think of Florida as Disney or Miami.”
But Jacksonville has significant benefits over the rest of Florida when it comes to travel: Its median age is 28, making it atypical of the usual retirement market and travel is less seasonal.
And of course, the airport has goals: With the conference having taken place in San Juan, she said it was of particular interest to perhaps gain that route back.
By attending this conference, Halverstadt said the airport is setting up the foundation for new flights in a more comfortable setting.
“We can enlighten them about the region with a different view than sitting in a corporate office,” she said. “We can have meetings that last 20 to 40 minutes on different aspects. We can have introduction meetings or meetings with carriers we're courting. But these take time. It took four years to have Allegiant come to Jacksonville, and they're doing very well now.”