Originally created 08/07/03

Officials question airport ad



Just as New Jersey native Frank Sinatra never crooned "Newark, Newark," Augusta Regional Airport's Big Apple ads don't sing the praises of the New Jersey city, either.

"I've had several people question why we're doing that," said Ed McIntyre, an Augusta Aviation Commission member, referring to ads that promise nonstop service to New York City and not Newark, N.J. - Continental Express' actual destination from Augusta. "That's false advertising."

It's an eight-mile difference that has aviation commissioners reconsidering a $400,000 airport marketing campaign, of which $100,000 is left unspent.

"My concern was, I've had several customers from the airport come to me and say, 'You know, we're actually going to Newark, but y'all are saying we're going directly to New York,"' commission Chairman Cedric Johnson said.

Continental Express began nonstop flights to Newark and Houston from Augusta five months ago. The airport pays for the ads because of an agreement that attracted Continental to the city's airport.

Martinez resident Harendra Desai, whose wife is flying Continental to Houston today, said complaints about the ads are nitpicking. Still, he offered a solution: Just add "area" after "New York," he said.

Continental approved the New York ads because Newark Liberty International Airport is in the New York metropolitan area, said Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for Continental. He said "New York" or "New York area" would be acceptable on ads. Continental, however, would prefer money be spent on new billboards, not on changing existing ones.

Kathryn Solee, Augusta Regional's marketing director, said the Newark airport isn't unique, noting that Washington Reagan National Airport is actually in Arlington, Va.

She said she's not sure what the cost would be to change the ads, but Mr. Johnson said new billboards would cost thousands of dollars and probably would involve Continental's input.

Another technicality: Part of the Newark airport, Mr. Johnson said, is within the city limits of Elizabeth, N.J.

"So do you change the ad to say nonstop to Newark and Elizabeth?" he asked.

The issue will go before the aviation commission at 10 a.m. today at the airport's banquet room.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.