New advertisements in Aviation Daily are part of a marketing campaign launched by the Washington Airports Task Force, with the help of Loudoun County and others, to show support and drum up business for Dulles International Airport. The Dulles marketing campaign, which started this month, was designed to prompt airline executives to think of the airport as a good place to base their flights, according to task force President Leo J. Schefer.
"We wanted airlines to know this is one airport with a friendly community around it," Schefer said, noting the financial and political support it receives from adjacent Loudoun County and many local businesses that rely on it.
The Loudoun County Economic Development Commission is a donor to the campaign, along with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Capital Region USA and the Greater Washington Initiative. The commission and the Loudoun Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last week to provide $10,000 in commission funds to support the task force campaign, which targets senior airline executives and airline investors.
The ads, in the trade publication Aviation Daily, describe Dulles airport as a stable choice for airlines even as the industry undergoes a major upheaval. Airports lose revenue and jobs when fewer people fly, as they have done since Sept. 11, 2001, but Schefer said he thinks Dulles will survive the downturn because of the volume of passengers who fly in and out of the Washington area for business and government purposes.
Many companies have chosen or built offices along the Dulles corridor specifically to be near the airport.
The ads are being published in Aviation Daily for several reasons, Schefer said. "We believe it helps United [Airlines] and US Airways, our two largest air service providers, if the industry and the financial markets understand that Dulles is a really smart place to be because there is a strong market," he said.
But United, which flies 40 percent of Dulles passengers coming and going, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Like other major carriers, United has suffered from a lack of passengers during the rough economy and after terrorist attacks. US Airways climbed out of Chapter 11 reorganization this month, and American Airlines narrowly avoided filing for Chapter 11 at the same time.
The ads are an attempt to counter such news and attract new carriers to the airport, an ongoing effort, Schefer said. But it's more important now because if United does not come out of Chapter 11, "we want to make sure other carriers come in here," he said.
The campaign is "an incredibly good return for the county," Schefer said. "As Dulles has grown, the tax revenue has increased in Loudoun. Most businesses will be happy to have that return on investment."
Meanwhile, at United's request, the commission and board passed another resolution declaring support and willingness to offer United further help and encouraging Congress to take "appropriate legislative action to ensure a healthy domestic and international airline industry."
Commission Chairman David Parker said much effort has been focused recently on roads and rail in Loudoun while the importance of the airport has been somewhat ignored. Several commission members have a background in the airline industry, including Michael Davis, senior vice president of Atlantic Coast Airlines, and James Bennett, soon-to-be head of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
"Through them, there's been a reminder to keep our eye on the ball," Parker said. "There's a lot of stuff going on at the airport and a lot of stuff related to the airlines" that will affect the county.
United, one of the county's largest employers with about 5,000 employees based locally, released a statement after learning of the resolution.
"All United employees, who are working hard to create a sustainable, competitive and financially viable carrier, appreciate the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission's resolution of support, and we look forward to working with the Commission on developing mutually beneficial partnerships in the future," it read.
Parker and others noted the importance of the airport in relation to the area.
"The reason a lot of companies decided to be in the Reston and Herndon corridor is because they want access to Dulles," Parker said. "As these routes diminish, it starts to redefine who wants to be in Northern Virginia, Loudoun and Western Fairfax."
Although Parker said he does not think all local companies will move, he said a suffering Dulles airport and loss of United could mean that fewer companies would want to locate here.
Georgia Graves, a commission member and former volunteer president of the Committee for Dulles, a coalition of businesses, organizations and individuals that helps to oversee development of the airport, said the commission's two resolutions underscore support for what has been such a stable economic force in the area.
"We want to promote Dulles Airport and the Washington metro area by letting everyone know we're open for business, we're here, we're working in a unified effort in the community to welcome visitors to the Washington region, Dulles corridor and the airport," Graves said. "It's all about promoting the businesses in the corridor."