Best Practices for Airline Partnerships & Route Development

October 20, 2014

airline pic

Insider Update from Peru’s Elisabeth Hakim

Most destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are aware of the vital role that accessibility – particularly airlift – plays in a destination’s ability to boost arrivals and sustain long-term growth. Yet with the rise of regional airports, low-cost carriers such as Air Transat and Porter, and the boon of international visitors beyond traditional cosmopolitan gateways, many DMOs are dipping their toes into route development for the first time.

As with maelisabeth hakimny relationships, airline partnerships often  commence withsparks of brilliance. DMOs are eager to  leverage the airlines brand recognition and tap into the  airline’s loyal database of travelers to boost arrivals and  spending. Yet as the months lag and results take longer than  expected, partners can become frustrated. Having worked  many years for an airline and now working for a DMO, I  have experienced this situation from both sides.

Before beginning new route negotiations, familiarize yourself with what route development entails. Conferences like World Routes offer seminars that discuss the role of aviation and tourism and provide an overview on how the airport / airline business relations truly work. Seminars at the conference will help participants learn how to identify target markets and prepare a market potential brief for the airline.

In addition, here are five key things to keep in mind to better understand the airline’s point of view:

  1. Profitability. While a DMO wants to increase growth in arrivals, visitor revenue and even brand recognition, an airline’s top priority is high-yield passengers. First class and business class passengers are their primary target for profitability. While a leading tour operator is a strategic co-op marketing partner for a DMO because of passenger volume, the passenger yield might not be attractive for the airline. Come to the table with third-party partner recommendations that make sense for the airline.
  2. In-kind Contributions. Airlines do not usually contribute extensive cash to a campaign – their contribution is in-kind. So DMOs should not expect an airline partnership to fully fund their advertising buy. Instead, focus on targeted efforts that leverage the airlines strengths — brand recognition and loyal customers – to boost the destination’s brand image.
  3. Limited Staff. Airlines generally lack manpower – due to staff costs – so they are often unwilling or unable to carry out intricate activities or events. Being able to do turn-key events on their behalf is integral to partnership success.
  4. Airline Incentive Trips. Be prepared for an airline’s request to partner on sales incentive trips for their top sales producers. While such trips can offer value for a DMO, DMOs should ensure that airlines agree to provide resulting sales figures that will justify the DMOs investment in ground costs for hosting the group.
  5. Airport Management & Compliance. The airport authority is an important third party partner for new route development. An airport authority will likely be conducting their own formal negotiations with airlines to maximize leasing arrangements for their gates and ensure that service being offered aligns with FAA regulations and regional needs. Formalize your relationship with the local airport authority prior to approaching airlines. A joint-approach will yield more effective and efficient results.

Written by Elisabeth Hakim

Elisabeth Hakim is an accomplished marketing executive with 30 years experience in the travel and tourism industry. She currently spearheads the team at PromPeru, Peru Tourism and Export Promotion Board, that is dedicated to promoting Peru in the US, Canada and the UK. Before joining PromPeru eleven years ago, she was the Marketing Manager of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for the Andean countries for ten years. Passionate about her country, she enjoys traveling with her husband into the depths of Peru to discover new places and reconnecting with her Peruvian roots.

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