A lot of you reading this blog are business people. You know full well the importance of perception. That is, how people perceive your business. You also know how frustrating it can be. You know how your business works. You know what services you offer—but there’s always that disgruntled customer out there who knows better than you.
I got a proverbial earful from an airport critic a couple of months ago via email. And brothers and sisters let me tell you, his perception is reality. Just ask him.
“I just saw one of your commercials on TV. Everyone of these folks that you are using to talk up your cause is flying on their company’s dime. I happen to know that everyone of them also uses the airport on their own dime."
I didn’t even bother to rebut.
“We, the citizens of Springfield, are spending millions of dollars on this new airport of yours when you cannot even fill up the present airport.”
I did rebut this one. First of all, we’re not building a new airport; we’re building a new terminal. Secondly, not one cent of Springfield tax money goes to the airport. The airport pays its own way. I could have written several pages about the deficiencies of the current terminal, but figured it wasn’t worth the effort.
There was a lengthy paragraph on fares.
“I was a salesman for over 20 years…I can count on both hands the number of times that I flew out of Springfield. The cost of flying out of here is unreal….”
I attempted to explain that the goal of the commercials was to get more people to use the airport; and the more people use the airport the cheaper fares are. I thought about suggesting that he should base his fare perceptions on current fares, rather than ancient history, but again, it didn’t seem worth the effort. I was right. He came back with this:
“I know your passenger volume has more than doubled, but prices are still higher. That dog won’t hunt!”
Excuse me?! Has this airport ever said that Springfield fares would become equal to Kansas City or St. Louis? No. We’ve only said that prices would go down as passenger volume goes up. And by the way, that dog does hunt…
The proof came the day after the email exchange in the form of the new leakage study. The study concludes that in the past three years we’ve seen an 18 percent improvement in the number of people using the airport—these are people who previously left the market to fly from cheaper airports. This tells me two things: fares are less than they used to be and the vast majority of customers have decided the difference in price isn’t worth the drive to airports in Kansas City, St. Louis or Tulsa.
We need your help. The next time you hear someone tearing down our airport challenge them: do they know that Springfield has a low cost airline in the form of Allegiant Air? Do they know that Allegiant roundtrip fares are sometimes less than $200? Do they know that shopping for tickets ahead of time will sometimes narrow the difference in cost between Springfield and other airports to just $30 or $40? Do they know that bad mouthing the airport serves no purpose other than to perpetuate the myth that Springfield is always higher? Please educate them!
As columnist George Will once said, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts!"