You Have Entered the Twilight Zone...

 

We found this email today:

 

“I recently had to fly to Springfield airport to see my son graduate from Fort Leonard Wood.  When getting directions to get back to the airport to leave Missouri it gave me directions to your "old" airport.  Amongst myself and my friend there were a few other people at the "old" airport waiting for their flight.  This is VERY confusing and we almost missed our flight after realizing it didn't look the same as the one we landed at.  There should be something done so when getting directions you are not lead to the "old" airport and taken only to the "new" airport!”

 

Early last year we identified this issue as our biggest public relations challenge. Remember the scenario we faced? The old terminal would close on the evening of May 5. The new terminal would open on the morning of May 6. We knew someone would show-up at the old terminal on the morning of May 6 and that they would end-up missing their flight. To get the word out we put together a multi-faceted plan to spread the word about the move:

 

  • We spoke to as many civic groups as possible
  • We advertised on broadcast TV
  • We advertised on cable TV
  • We advertised on radio
  • We advertised on local media web sites
  • We advertised in local magazines
  • We advertised in the newspaper
  • We used this blog
  • We used the airport web site
  • We used an email blast service
  • We passed out informational flyers in the old terminal
  • We worked with local news organizations
  • We coordinated with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to get directional signs changed on state highways

We did all these things and more. By the time May 6 rolled around we achieved what I call “media saturation.” The advertising was everywhere. Local news organizations did an outstanding job—they gave us what the news industry calls, “wall to wall coverage.”

 

Well, guess what? On May 6 a bunch of people showed up at the old terminal looking for an airplane. They’re still doing it…

 

To a certain degree it’s understandable. After all, the old terminal location served for 64 years. Old habits are hard to break. On the other hand, it seems that some folk are oblivious to the world around them.

 

A week after the new terminal opened, I stood near the driveway entrance of the old terminal. The drive was block by red traffic cones. A big electronic message sign stood next to the cones. It gave directions to the new terminal. A customer pulled up in their car. They got out, moved the cones, and parked in the nearly empty parking lot. Then they walked to the front of the deserted terminal, bags in hand, and tried to enter. The doors were locked; the customer was stunned...

 

Later that day I watched several people pull up in front of the old terminal. They got out of their car and, without exception, just stood there. They looked at the locked doors. They looked up and down the empty horseshoe drive. Paper blew in the driveway; everything was deserted. They had looks of disbelief. It was reminiscent of a scene from the Twilight Zone—they were the only people left after the nuclear holocaust.  Keep in mind they had just ignored an electronic message sign and had moved traffic cones so they could get in the drive…

 

More recently we’ve had a huge sign in the middle of the old terminal driveway. It’s eight feet long, four feet tall and mounted on a barricade. People have to slow down and drive carefully around it. In big letters it tells people that the building is closed. It has a map and directions. We attached two plastic boxes to the sign. They contain printed maps showing the way to the new terminal. Earlier this week an airport police officer watched a car load of people creep by the sign. They stopped, got out, and asked the officer what was going on; where is everyone? He pointed to the sign. They hadn’t noticed it…

 

Of course, many people tell us that we need to put up some signs…

 

To be fair about the sign issue, we have to agree with the assessment that the directional signs on the state highways (all the roads leading to the airport are owned by the state) are inadequate. MoDOT has plans to put up more and bigger signs leading to the new terminal. But even after that’s done, mark my words, people will still show up at the old terminal…

 

This blog entry is long-winded, but almost over. Just one more thing to mention: GPS units. You know, global positioning system units...had no idea how many people depend on those things to get from point A to point B. They get in their car, turn on the GPS and tell it to take them to the Springfield airport. It takes them to the old terminal...

 

Technology has led them astray. But some how, some way, it’s the airport’s fault. Just ask them...

 

We’re told by the big mapping companies that it will take 18-24 months for GPS units to catch-up. And that assumes GPS owners will update their software…

 

And then there’s the matter of the bum directions given out by Google Maps and MapQuest…but wait…this blog entry is long enough!

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