Surfing the Web soon might trump staring aimlessly out the window as a way for Augusta Regional Airport passengers to pass the time while waiting for a flight.
The airport is hoping several new passenger perks such as free wireless Internet access and a low-fare program from US Airways, will begin to reverse a decline in passenger numbers.
Diane Johnston, the airport's marketing director, said the enticements aren't a panacea for the airport's problems but do help to offset some of the ticket costs at Bush Field by increasing the facility's convenience.
"We're here as a community service, and we want to be here for the community," Ms. Johnston said.
Augusta Regional began offering free baggage carts for passengers in June and implemented the Wi-Fi Internet in October. Ms. Johnston said it also has opened bidding for a dedicated online booking agent so passengers can book their flights directly through the Augusta Regional Web site.
Airport officials have long known that emphasizing convenience was essential to increasing passenger traffic. Without an increase in passengers, there is little hope that the airport's two carriers, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which serves Delta passengers, and US Airways, will continue their price drops, Ms. Johnston said.
Traffic is the most important factor that low-cost airline carriers examine when deciding to move into a market, according to Edmund S. Greenslet, the publisher of The Airline Monitor and the founder of the airline consulting firm ESG Aviation Services.
"It's part of the package," he said of passenger perks. "But it's not the whole package, and it may not even be the most important part."
Ms. Johnston said each new service the airport implements adds value to a ticket from Augusta Regional and provides people with a reason to fly out of Augusta, rather than Atlanta or Columbia.
The airport spends about $85,000 a year for labor, drivers and uniforms for the shuttle service. The cost for cable TV and Wi-Fi is about $5,000 a year, and the startup equipment for the Internet service set the airport back about $6,500 in labor and installation - all of which are paid through airport revenues.
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Augusta Regional Airport has added a few passenger perks to further offset some of the ticket costs and increase the facility's convenience. Those perks include:
- Shuttle service to and from the parking lot and terminal
- Free wireless Internet service
- Free baggage carts
- Children's playground
- Frequent flier room/office area
- Partnerships with travel agencies and businesses for travel, lodging and dining discounts
Source: Diane Johnston, airport marketing director