Edmonton airport wants more business from Red Deer

Central Albertans are being urged to kick a bad habit — bad, at least, for the Edmonton International Airport.

Central Albertans are being urged to kick a bad habit — bad, at least, for the Edmonton International Airport.

Officials with the northern airport have launched a “Stop the Calgary Habit” campaign. It’s directed at the thousands of people who choose the Calgary International Airport over its Edmonton counterpart each year when booking flights.

Traci Bednard, an Edmonton International Airport spokesperson, said the Red Deer region is part of the campaign.

“When we looked at travel patterns, more than three-quarters of the folks from Red Deer tend to travel from Calgary instead of Edmonton,” she said.

Even Edmontonians are guilty of bypassing their airport. The Edmonton International Airport has estimated that 750,000 people from the city board planes at Calgary each year — the equivalent of 14 Boeing 737s every day of the year.

If this leakage stopped, the Edmonton airport would be able to increase its flight options and boost the economic benefits flowing from its operations, said Bednard. Research has indicated that the problem is the result of past practices and perception.

“It’s just habits that people have started,” said Bednard, adding that these habits arose when the Edmonton International Airport had less to offer.

For instance, she said, the Edmonton airport added 21 new destinations over the past four years, and now offers direct flights to more than 50 places. It’s also undergone a major facility expansion.

Bednard said it’s been determined that many people aren’t aware they can fly directly to resort areas from Edmonton.

“Red Deer residents thought that to get to one of those sunspot destinations they would need to be connecting through Calgary. And that’s not the case.”

The objective of the Stop the Calgary Habit campaign is to raise awareness of what the Edmonton International Airport has to offer. This is being done through advertising, a dedicated website at www.stopthecalgaryhabit.ca and new media messaging on Facebook and Twitter.

“We actually have a very specific campaign for Red Deer,” said Bednard.

It will include visits to Central Alberta by representatives of the Edmonton International Airport and discussions with local travel agents and the media.

Red Deer is currently featured on the Stop the Calgary Habit website, where city residents can download a coupon for half-price parking at the Edmonton International Airport.

“We want to earn the Red Deer market, and we’re now at a point when it comes to the air services and the amenities in the terminal where we have something to offer Red Deer that we might not have five or 10 years ago,” said Bednard.

She stressed that the campaign is not intended to demean the Calgary International Airport. “This campaign simply asks our citizens to take into account the expense, time and inconvenience of driving to or flying through Calgary.”

Liam O’Connell, CEO of the Red Deer Regional Airport, isn’t worried about the Edmonton International Airport luring air travellers away from the Red Deer airport. “I’m not concerned at all because we’re building into a different market. We’re going after short-haul regional stuff.”

O’Connell said the Red Deer Regional Airport Authority’s own consultant has calculated that 80 per cent of area residents choose Calgary over Edmonton when booking flights.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com