Too Many Fliers Asking "Dela-Where?"
Hoping to avoid the loss of
yet another airline, New Castle Airport (ILG) in Wilmington, DE has
pulled out the all stops on a marketing campaign to attract more
The small, often-overlooked airport has attempted to position
itself as an alternative to the far more crowded -- and delay-prone
-- Philadelphia International Airport. When Delta Airlines took up
shop at ILG 10 months ago, there were high hopes of renewed
interest in the facility.
Even though the airport boasts short lines, on-time flights,
free parking and few security hassles... flights are still only
about 61 percent full on average. That has caused painful
flashbacks of other carriers that have bailed on the facility, most
recently Shuttle America in 2000.
New Castle officials are now playing up the airport's
conveniences in a $75,000 marketing campaign. Among the tactics are
radio spots, a new Web site and numerous billboard displays. Their
target market, like anyone else in the travel industry, is business
travelers, according to Delaware's News Journal.
"This is about raising our profile, letting customers know we're
here," said Steve Williams, airports director for the Delaware
River & Bay Authority, which operates the New Castle
According to Mike Boyd, president of the Colorado-based aviation
consulting firm the Boyd Group, the state's ample corporate
business community means there are plenty of business travelers to
"Business traffic is what today's airlines are most interested
in, because business travelers tend to be brand loyal, collecting
frequent flier miles even if it means paying more for a ticket," he
Officials are keeping their collective fingers crossed that this
effort not only persuades Delta to stay for awhile, but attract
other airlines as well.
Airport officials add a carrier will soon announce its intention
to begin service at the airport in November... but they decline to
The airport faces an uphill battle in its bid to attract more
business: a history of failed past attempts and trends that do not
favor regional airports.
The situation is not without its positive aspects, though. "New
Castle is in a unique situation," Boyd said. "Wilmington is a major
legal and commercial center."
Plus, the passenger numbers are growing. Delta, currently the
airport's only carrier, saw 815 passengers go through New Castle
Airport this month, one passenger more than in January.
Williams said the airport has had $30 million in upgrades over
the last ten years. With 1,250-acre and three runways, the
airport's current infrastructure could easily handle about nine
flights per day, or 281,000 passengers a year.
"We can succeed," he said. "All the numbers are there."
The key, says Delaware State Chamber of Commerce president James
Wolfe, is the airport's convenience. "To business people, time is
Wade Jones has been flying Delta for 20 years. He said he was
"thrilled" when Delta began flying out of New Castle. This enables
him to bypass the Philadelphia airport when he comes to Wilmington
from Atlanta for monthly business trips.
"This is so much more convenient," he said recently as he waited
a whole five minutes for his suitcase in baggage claim. "People
should really take advantage."
In the last 20 years, New Castle has seen United Airlines,
Shuttle America, and Crown Airlines leave. The failures can be
traced to featured destinations, flight timing and the lack of
awareness about the airport in general, according to Williams.
The airport has a viable future as long as it keeps its eye on
the prize: business travelers. The domino effect of success
includes increased economic development, contributing to car
rental, hotel and restaurant businesses, said J. Harry Feldman,
executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and
In 2005, 2.73 million visitors came to the area. Two percent of
those visitors arrived by air.
Feldman said he doesn't want Delaware to be the only state
without regularly scheduled commercial air service, even with
Philadelphia as close as it is.
"We don't want Delta to say they didn't succeed because people
didn't know they were there," he said.