ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Lambert Airport is defending its expenditure of about a million dollars for a marketing firm to increase flights — after the three-year effort resulted in 37 more daily flights.
The $1.2 million contract with Sabre Airline Solutions is expiring, and the Lambert Board of Commissioners voted to switch its marketing efforts to Mead and Hunt, Inc.. The three year contract with Mead and Hunt is not to exceed $625,000.
Lambert Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge was asked if the airport got enough bang for its buck with Sabre.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” she said, “We bought access to a system they were using to be able to identify passengers departing each way. We at the airport didn’t have access to that. That access was through Sabre. We, then as a result of that Sabre contact, bought that access.”
Hamm-Niebruegge says the system was used to identify a pattern of passengers leaving Lambert for Seattle, and that helped convince Alaska Airlines to add daily flights to Lambert starting in June of 2010.
After the interview, Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea e-mailed a statement to put the 37 additional flights in perspective.
“If you take out the American Airlines activity which de-hubbed their operations, Lambert has seen an increase of 23% in flights (all other airlines) and 20% in capacity from 2009 to 2012,” the statement said.
A representative of Mead and Hunt told the airport commissioners that for the airport to grow, business activity in St. Louis must grow as well.
“We’re not just a pure leisure destination market,” Hamm-Niebruegge said, “We’re never going to add a flight just because someone wants to come see the Arch. For us, it is dependent on business.”
Lambert also continues to market itself as an international cargo hub, after China Eastern Airlines landed two cargo flights here, then stopped coming when the Missouri Legislature failed to pass a $300 million incentive package.
Hamm-Niebruegge says they’ve had “some nibbles” from China, South American and Korea on a $3 million pool of state funds available to lure cargo flights here, but nothing definite.
With the Missouri Legislature racing toward adjournment later this month, she puts little hope in lawmakers passing a trimmed-down incentive package for cargo operations here.
“Not very optimistic , you know, we don’t see much of a change this year verses last year in terms of the makeup of the House or the Senate,” she said.