|Medical Leader | Photo by TEDDY PAYNTER|
ADDRESSING THE CROWD: Pikeville-Pike County Airport Board Member Paul E. Patton, left, addresses those in attendance during a special meeting held on April 10. Chairman William “Bill” Hickman is shown standing at right.
PIKEVILLE – With its initial advertising campaign in the rear view mirror, the Pikeville-Pike County Airport Board is pushing forward with plans members hope will boost ticket sales for Appalachian Air.
Ticket sales since the service was launched last October have been slow aboard the 19-passenger British Aerospace Jetstream J32 turboprop aircraft, operated by Public Charters of Pennsylvania and Corporate Flight Management of Tennessee.
“We’ve got to work to build it [the service] and must do more to get people to use the service,” Chairman William “Bill” Hickman said, during the meeting held at the University of Pikeville Community Technology Center on April 10.
One of the major concerns with business and recreational users is the lack of passenger screening at the airport. Presently, passengers are routed to Corporate Flight Management’s site in Nashville and then transported to nearby Nashville International Airport.
“One of the biggest concerns I’m hearing is the cost of the flight and the baggage issue,” Board Member Walter E. May said.
Luke B. Schmidt, President of Louisville-based L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, the consulting firm that has served as the facilitator for the project, said officials and his group were blindsided when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rejected the approval of screening at the airport.
“We never saw that coming,” Schmidt said. “We asked the TSA to re-consider granting the request.”
Schmidt told members a meeting is now set with the TSA for April 30.
Board Member Frank Hatcher said the screening and baggage issue is something that needs to be resolved before moving ahead with advertising plans.
“This needs to be fixed before we do anything else,” Hatcher said.
Board Member Brent Wager echoed Hatcher.
“Screening is a top priority for us,” he said. “There’s no question this would boost customer use.”
Kenneth Rambo, vice president of Heartland Communications Consultants of Elizabethtown, handled the promotional advertising of the service totaling $60,000 for print media and digital only.
“This time around we are including television advertising,” Rambo said. “Our plans are to spend $90,000 over the next 12 months.”
The advertising blitz is scheduled to begin in May to include television.
Rambo added that 13 percent of the budget will go to radio, with an additional five percent to print and digital media, as well as three percent to outdoor advertising.
Officials were hoping to increase advertising dollars to $220,000. This would be done only with outside help.
“We are losing money yearly,” Wagner said. “We only make money from hanger rentals and fueling of planes.”
Hickman added that the board needed to look at ways for the air service to provide package deals for its customers.
“This service just isn’t about the business customers, but it’s about recreational use as well,” he said. “We are six months in and I haven’t heard one thing about ways to improve usage.”