By Dominic Welling
Airports in the US must ‘think outside the box’ and reposition themselves if they are to weather changes in airline services caused by a number of mergers and consolidations in the industry, according to Mario Diaz, aviation director of Houston Airport System (HAS).
Major economic moments in the past ten years, such as the impact of September 11th on the economy and the recent recession of 2007-2009, has resulted in flurry of airline consolidations and mergers across the US.
However, according to Diaz, there are a number of strategies airports can adopt to retain or attract airline services.
Speaking at a discussion on airline consolidation at AAAE’s 83rd Annual Conference and Exposition in Atlanta, Diaz said that first of all airports must negotiate with airlines.
He said that at the moment when airports feel threatened that airlines might take their services away, they tend to just “hand the keys over to the airline”.
Diaz said: “This is a mistake. If there is value in the local economy you will get air service. Airports must therefore negotiate with the airlines. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate and sign an agreement of contract rather than trust.”
According to Diaz, when deciding on hubs of the future, airlines will be interested in the economy behind the airport and not the airport itself.
Inevitably, some airports will lose their hub status, he said, however he urged airport officials to "reinvent your airport. It exists because of the economy. You can position your airport to weather this storm and the next one that is around the corner."
He said: “No matter how inexpensive the airport fees are or how good the customer service is, the airlines will be looking at the strength of the region’s economy which the airport represents when deciding on the hubs of tomorrow.”