SeaPort Air Marketing Coodinator Claire James told the Newport Sustainability Task Force this week that SeaPort is intensifying its advertising for flights between Portland and Newport. James said a lot of SeaPort’s planned advertising budget will go more toward on-line travel industry websites and social networking platforms. She said SeaPort already works closely with on-line travel company Expedia and is continuing to negotiate with Travelocity and Orbitz. They are also in discussions with data-search engines Kayak.com, TripAdvisor.com, Fly.com and TravelZoo.com. She added SeaPort is also considering investing in what are called “interstitial ads” that pop up while a person is doing a Google-type search on a computer.
James also reported to the Sustainability Committee that SeaPort is planning a major “social website” launch (Facebook, Twitter, etc) for giveaway promotions on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. She said SeaPort is also planning to launch its own social website blog as well as an overhaul of their official airline website.
In addition, SeaPort will be harnessing the power of e-mail lists of fliers and friends of fliers gleaned from promotions, so that SeaPort is kept in the front of the minds of thousands of people when they plan business or pleasure trips.
To help better cross-promote SeaPort Air with local businesses, James said SeaPort will launch a direct weblink to Newport hotels and motels, and with other groups like the Newport Chamber of Commerce. The weblinks would also web-connect SeaPort fliers with regional special events such as seafood, art and wine events.
Despite the shift in emphasis toward on-line and data-search-driven advertising, James advised the committee that they will still use traditional advertising media including billboard, terminal information and printed promotional materials. And they will continue to use tried-and-true promotions like discounted fares, referral credits, frequent flyer, and other “value discounts.” She hinted that a SeaPort company representative will attend an upcoming Newport Chamber of Commerce luncheon and that “he may give away SeaPort tickets.”
SeaPort Air also announced that they will begin “changing planes” on September 1st. Instead of the pricey Pilatus PC-12 turbo prop high altitude aircraft (which is expensive to operate and maintain) they will be switching over to a slightly slower and lower flying and lower cost Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft. Figures show that the PC-12 has been burning through Oregon Connect II state subsidies at a rapid rate and that switching to the Caravan will help reverse that trend. The Caravan carries the same number of passengers as the PC-12. Some Sustainability Committee members indicated that despite the change-over to the Caravan, air fares will likely be raised to ensure airline service between Newport and Portland is self-supporting. The Connect II subsidy program expires next Spring.
James also reminded the committee that SeaPort has established an inter-airline ticketing agreement with US Airways and that they are also establishing inter-airline baggage handling agreements as well.
Airport Manager Gene Cossey told the committee that the city’s attempt to qualify for another state grant to establish direct air service to Salem and Seattle has probably failed, being pushed aside by road and highway projects elsewhere in the state.