I have received numerous questions about where we stand in terms of the status of airline z. Id like to take this opportunity to clarify where the campaign stands. As you remember on Feb 11 we began a campaign to gather 25,000 business and leisure surveys. The purpose of the surveys was to show to airline z the true magnitude of the regional market served by RFD. The goal was to raise those surveys in 30 days. Unfortunately, we fell short in that effort. Does that mean that we are not getting airline z……NO, we continue to be optimistic that we will land airline z. The airline industry has been hurt seriously lately by rising fuel prices. Many carriers have raised fares and added fuel charges to their pricing. This has slowed the economic recovery of the industry. Airlines by nature are not risk takers, and with the fuel price issue hurting their bottom lines, they are reacting even more cautiously in terms of expansion. Therefore, the surveys become even more important now.
With all of that said, the campaign is still very much alive. As of this date, we have gathered approximately 23,700 surveys. Thats still 1,300 short of our goal. The individuals in the region have reacted in a fantastic manner; however, where we are really lacking is in business surveys. Even though it has changed since 9/11, business travelers are still the backbone for the airlines.
You remember the TMA campaign. We set a goal and a time period to achieve it, and we succeeded. As a result, we have TMA. This time around, we set a goal in a specific time frame, and we havent reached our goal. As a result, we still dont have a commitment. This campaign in many ways is more difficult than the TMA effort. We are talking an established, low-fare carrier, offering daily flights to their Western Hub. Landing an airline likez could be the make it or break it point for RFD. We get zwere in the big leagues.
Please dont think that Bob OBriens good looks and our success with TMA will be enough to land z, because that simply isnt good enough. Bob and I remain optimistic that if the remaining 1,300 surveys are completed in a timely manner, we will be able to take that very strong ammunition to the table with airline z and be able to come home with good news. I know that a lot of you are tired of hearing about the surveys … but we need them, folks, especially those from the business community!
On a related topic, plans are still moving ahead for international service in 2005. The eastern portion of the airport administration building is being looked at in terms of converting the space to house the Federal Inspection Service operations. Incoming flights would arrive at the operations building, where passengers would go through customs, and outbound flights would depart from the terminal.
TMA will be launching their San Juan service in May and the Boeing 757s have returned on several of the Las Vegas flights. The Boeing 727s have been replaced by newer MD 80s on the other RFD flights.
There are some new potential cargo carriers on the horizon as well. UPS will be adding shortly a daily Boeing 747 flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to RFD. UPS has also added their larger planes to the RFD fleet. Nightly arrivals now include wide body Airbus A300s and Boeing 767-300s.
Friends, both Bob OBrien and I remain very optimistic that RFD is positioned to become a major player in the airline business in the not-too-distant future. Thank you for your interest, concerns and most of all your support. Together, we will succeed in making RFD what we all know it can be!
David Lindberg is the president of the Greater Rockford Transportation Coalition.