Watertown International Airport seeks help from business groups to market new service

AMERICAN EAGLE: Taking off from Watertown in November, ‘ambassadors’ try to attract public By NANCY MADSEN
TIMES STAFF WRITER
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2011

About a month before the start of American Eagle Airlines’ flights to Watertown International Airport, staff at the airport and local business officials have teamed up as “airport ambassadors” to entice local residents and businesses to use the new service.

“Initially, the purpose of formation of the committee really was to offer support for the airport and the new service at the airport,” said Cynthia M. Sawyer, the county’s marketing coordinator for the airport. “We’ve got all segments of the business community represented and they’ve brought good expertise and advice to get this going.”
The airline will receive $3,047,972 annually through a federal Department of Transportation Essential Air Service contract to fly 44-seat Embraer ERJ 140 aircraft from the airport on Route 12F near Dexter to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The planes carry nearly five times as many passengers as the nine-seat Cessnas flown by the current carrier, Cape Air. Twelve flights per week will depart from Watertown, two on each weekday plus one each on Saturday and Sunday.
“This opens up a portal to us to the west that has never been opened before,” said Mary Anne Hanley, marketing director for the Jefferson County Job Development Corp.

An airline spokesman said in September that the airline is “pulling out all the stops” in marketing the service, which begins Nov. 17. The airline joined the Greater Watertown – North Country Chamber of Commerce, working with transportation management and USO officials on Fort Drum and offering a military discount.
“We’ve discussed how to market it, make the airport a viable resource to the community and market the community to travelers,” said Lynn M. Pietroski, president and CEO of the chamber. “We’ve got rough winters, but there are still fun things to do in winter and we’re looking to what Chicago can offer.”

Representatives from the airline will attend the chamber’s networking expo Oct. 19.
“We are starting to work on a marketing plan, so we will partner with local media as far as having inserts, contests and giveaways,” she said.
The airline has used the committee as a resource to learn about businesses that may want corporate accounts.
“American itself has some wonderful opportunities to offer corporate businesses and they count corporate accounts as businesses with 10 or more employees,” Ms. Sawyer said.
The airline counts on 23 passengers per flight to meet its expectations in its bid.
Those expectations would mean more than 14,000 passengers leaving the Jefferson County airport in a year. In recent years, the total number of passengers has been in the low thousands. American Eagle and its parent carrier, American Airlines, have 500 flights daily to more than 115 destinations from O’Hare.
“We really need community participation to make this a success,” Ms. Sawyer said.

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