Airport developing plan to give passengers a ‘wow experience’

Hopes to increase boardings by 10 percent a year By Susan Orr
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

EVANSVILLE — Evansville Regional Airport’s leaders are hoping a new strategic plan will help the facility chart a path toward success over the next five years.
The plan includes three broad goals: creating what the airport is calling “a wow experience” for travelers; achieving annual growth in passenger traffic; and gaining more support from throughout the region and state.
It’s the first time in recent memory the airport has come up with such a plan, said Airport Director Doug Joest. Until now, the airport’s focus has been more on responding to Federal Aviation Administration mandates rather than working toward its own goals.
“This is kind of a new concept,” Joest said.

Describing the goals Joest said the “wow experience” encompasses a number of different factors ranging from the physical appearance of the airport to passengers’
experiences and customer service.
Some of these things are already in the works, Joest said — by the end of the year, for instance, the airport expects to have in place jetbridges, or enclosed walkways that take passengers between airplane and terminal.
Other elements of the “wow experience,” are yet to be determined, Joest said, but could include adding curbside baggage handling, moving security screening to a single centralized area or doing things to add color and visual interest to the building.
The airport’s growth goal is to increase the number of passengers boarding flightsby 10 percent a year.
This could be achieved by attracting additional carriers to Evansville, boosting boardings on existing carriers, or both.
Currently Evansville is served by two airlines, Delta and American. Enplanements last year were 171,025, down from 171,575 in 2010.
“I’ll be honest — we’re aiming high,” Joest said of the goal.

To gain better regional and statewide support, the airport is looking at a variety of approaches. Those include advocating for new pro-aviation legislation and educating residents and businesses about the value of having a local airport.
In creating the plan, Evansville airport leaders sought input from local businesses about the facility’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.
“We’re trying to get more engaged in the community. Before, we were like our own little village,” Joest said.
The airport also will get local college students involved in the plan.

This semester, University of Southern Indiana students will visit the airport to measure specific metrics such as the time it takes to move through security checkpoints or the time it takes for bags to move from an arriving flight to the luggage carousel.
Having this data will help the airport identify and promote examples of “wow experiences,” Joest said. The airport believes one of its strengths is in its convenience and short wait times, Joest said, but once it has actual data, it can back up this belief with hard facts.
University of Evansville students will work on a separate project. They will do research in an attempt to discover which local companies and businesses use the airport as a jumping-off point for international travel.
The airport’s marketing director, Dianna Kissel, said the UE student research will help identify who uses (and doesn’t use) the airport, and why. She said it’s the airlines themselves — not airports that have direct access to detailed customer data, and this local research project is intended to fill the gap.

“We don’t have customer data the way most businesses do,” Kissel said.
Airport leaders have shared their strategic plan with local and state officials, and they’ll take the next step Feb. 17 when they meet in executive session to begin assigning board members to complete specific plan tasks by set dates.
“I think the message at the end of the day is, we have a wonderful airport,” said Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority District board president Rick Kaskel.

“Everyone here is dedicated to making it even better.”

Scripps Lighthouse © 2012 Scripps Newspaper Group


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