Tampa Airport eying service from Alaska Airlines and Virgin America

I realize this is entirely insignificant to most of the rest of you, though there’s a Tampa Tribune article today about Tampa Airport’s chief executive eying service from Alaska Airlines and Virgin America (despite the initial screw up of them saying “Alaska Airways” and “Virgin Atlantic” in the article). I’m not sure what kind of a chance there actually is of this happening, though I wasn’t aware that airports could “eye” airlines. I mean, I suppose they can, though it seems like it’s more the airlines doing the research and number crunching, as opposed to the airports. I guess the airport could come up with an especially tempting deal that the airline couldn’t turn down, but that’s the extent of it, as far as I can imagine.

Anyway, I’d certainly welcome more competition.

On a somewhat related note, I’m always fascinated by the economics of once a day service, which Alaska Airlines seems to do a lot of. It amazes me that such a business model is viable, given that they often don’t outsource all of their operations yet don’t have any sort of economies of scale. Just a random side thought.

Hoping to see the Virgin and Eskimo here soon!

Filed Under: Alaska, Virgin America
  1. Thanks for sharing Lucky! I for one will be glad to have more competition out of TPA., hopefully it means more choices for me SFO-TPA or TPA-SFO.

  2. Hopefully the AS service is out of SJC (which is somewhat of a focus city for them) instead of SFO. SJC usually has lower fares even though it has less frequencies than SFO….and getting through security is a breeze.

  3. I guess the airport slot coordinator should be the first airport employee to “eye” an airline.

  4. @Carsten somehow I don’t think TPA is slot controlled 🙂 But airports routinely put together marketing pitches. They often don’t go very far, but a lot of money goes into them. And there are sweetheart deals, marketing packages…

  5. @Gary you are absolutely correct. Airports spend many $$$$$$$ on marketing research and courting new carriers as well as courting existing carriers to offer service to additional cities. Yes, sometimes there are also incentive arrangements “sweetheart deals”; but it is typically that the airport instead contributes advertising $$ to promote the new service. There are many consulting firms that contract with airports. So, there is a market in airport marketing.

  6. Alaska does tend to outsource just about everything at their outstations. They even outsource ground handling in Seattle now.

    I don’t think Alaska has more than a couple of direct employees in Boston, Orlando or Miami

  7. Having worked in strategic planning for a Major and an Express carrier, airports try a variety of ways to get an airline’s attention. Marketing support is pretty standard, except Vegas, they market the brand of the city which an airline takes advantage of for new service. They also will waive landing fees and terminal rents to lower start-up costs and hire consulting firms to run route numbers (Passenger and average fares, connecting opportunities, etc.) and economic analysis of a market’s overall economy to pitch new service ideas.

    The gifts they send also can be pertinent or comical. A three foot penny promoting an airport in Illinois as the Land of Lincoln went up on the wall as the worst we ever got. The coolest one, Akron, OH got us a ride on the Goodyear blimp. They also invite planning teams to personally view the city and its economic growth (cranes and new development are a plus.) The biggest pitch is to renovate or build new terminal facilities, but Southwest tends to be the only one who gets that royal treatment.

    Talks between an airline and cities can go on for years. International routes tend to be the most prized. In the end, the odds of a market being profitable, how it helps the overall strategic picture (feeds other routes,) will there be a competitive response, and its future economic prospects are the primary driver of new service. Subsidies and marketing support are helpful, but won’t overcome otherwise weak prospects for a market.

    Alaska almost always starts a new market from Seattle, their home fortress. Virgin America focuses on LAX and SFO as JFK is slot controlled for adding new flights.

  8. Virgin flying to TPA wouldn’t make much sense since they already fly to MCO (and FLL, but that’s further away). They’d probably have to stop flying to MCO to start flying to TPA and I imagine the market is bigger in MCO.

    Of course, VX is a bit frustrating for a lot of passengers in that they hit a good number of places on the east coast but only through SFO or LAX. That’s a long way to go if I want to get from Boston to Orlando, for example. They need an east coast hub/focus city.

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