Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Colorado Springs hires Virginia consulting firm for airport marketing contract

By Wayne Heilman Updated: August 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

A Reston, Va.-based aviation consulting firm that has helped airports across the nation win service from low-fare airlines AirTran, Frontier, JetBlue and Southwest has been hired as a marketing consultant to the Colorado Springs Airport, city officials announced Tuesday.

Seabury APG won the two-year contract. The city's March 25 request for proposals generated "interest from a wide range of marketing firms, including those with a local presence," the release said.

"The city received a number of solid proposals, and it was a tough decision. However, based on the criteria, Seabury APG received the highest ranking of all the firms considered. We know a tremendous amount of work went into the proposals and it showed," said Dan Gallagher, the city's interim aviation director.

Seabury, which works primarily for airports and airlines in air service development, network strategy, fleet planning, revenue management and information technology, formed a partnership to bid on the contract with Quotient Group, an Appleton, Wis.-based firm that specializes in marketing small airports, and D Custom, a Dallas-based marketing agency with extensive travel-related experience.

"We've worked with Seabury in the past and we know the quality of their work, their reputation in the industry and their credibility. We had that same level of confidence with some of the other bidders, but it came down to the experience of the team working with the small airports and the lessons they learned from that," Gallagher said.

Seabury is expected to begin work later this month with a nine-person team and begin producing market research by year's end on the destinations to which southern Colorado residents are traveling and where those travelers live, Gallagher said. The contract does not include a total payment, but rather lists prices for a menu of "a la carte" options from which airport officials can choose; total spending is likely to be within the $125,000 to $150,000 estimate in the city's request for proposals, he said.

Started in 1997, Seabury APG helped Philadelphia win Southwest service in 2003, was the financial advisor to U.S. Airways when it merged with America West Airlines in 2005, helped Charleston, S.C., win Southwest service in 2010 and helped Branson, Mo., win additional service from AirTran Airways (which later was acquired by Southwest) in 2011. The company, part of New York-based investment banking, management consulting and information technology firm Seabury Group, has helped more than a dozen airports gain service to 50 new cities.

Seabury's contract comes just weeks after Mayor Steve Bach created a new Airport Air Service Task Force to recommend ways by year's end to persuade airlines to offer more flights at lower fares to more nonstop destinations from the beleaguered local airport. The task force is headed by El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl and includes Steve Bartolin, president and CEO of The Broadmoor hotel; Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee; Victor Renuart, who retired as an Air Force general in 2010 after heading the U.S. Northern Command, and Pam Shockley-Zalabak, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

The airport's passenger traffic has plummeted since Frontier Airlines halted service to the Springs in April. The number of passengers boarding flights in the Springs during May fell 22.1 percent from a year earlier, the biggest monthly drop since just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Airport officials forecasted earlier this year that Frontier's departure will accelerate a steady decline in traffic, reducing this year's total to a 22-year low, though the forecast was made before Alaska Airlines announced plans to begin a daily to Seattle in November.

The city also has launched an advertising campaign encouraging residents to fly from Colorado Springs rather than driving to Denver for flights.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman

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