Fewer people are traveling on corporate jets and taking flying lessons — and that’s taking a toll on the Manassas Regional Airport.
The airport has counted about 98,000 planes taking off or touching down annually in recent years, down from about 136,000 five years ago, airport director Juan Rivera said. And although the Manassas airport is the largest of its kind in Virginia, Rivera said that he thinks if more people knew about the kind of services the airport offered that more would choose to fly into and out of Manassas.
That’s why the airport is sifting through marketing proposals to figure out a better way to get the word out. Fifteen companies responded to the airport’s recent request for marketing proposals, and Rivera and members of the airport commission will decide over the next few months which company can best represent the airport and develop a strategy to get more passengers into Manassas. The contract has a top limit of $35,000, Rivera said.
“We have a story to tell,” Rivera said. Many newcomers to the airport would probably be those traveling to the D.C. region on business, and the airport also hopes to attract more international flights.
There are perks to flying into a small airport, albeit somewhat more out of the way than the region’s larger Reagan National or Dulles International airports: No wait time, a limo or car that can pull up to the plane and cheaper gasoline, Rivera said. Not to mention an undoubtedly shorter security process.
“We save you time and money is the big thing,” Rivera said.
Rivera isn’t yet sure how exactly the airport will tell that story and whether advertising in print or other mediums makes sense. The first order of business, he said, will be to determine who the airport’s audience should be.
Manassas Regional Airport contributed $234.6 million last year to the local economy, which includes Prince William and Fairfax counties, according to a study commissioned by the Virginia Department of Aviation. Although that’s relatively a sliver of the $28.8 billion statewide — which includes, for example, the economic impact from those who work at airports to the money spent by folks going to lunch, or staying at a hotel, before or after a flight — it means that Manassas is a driver of economic growth among airports of its kind.
Rivera said that $20 million worth of improvements to the airport, scheduled for the next few years, will drive the local economy and attract new business. A $4.2 million, 500-foot runway extension will allow heavy or fully loaded planes to have the length of runway they might need on a hot day for a cross-country flight, he said.
After a company is chosen, Rivera said, the new marketing campaign will hopefully get kicked off in early spring.