Pittsburgh airport joins national frequent-flyer perks program
Pittsburgh International Airport officials hope a rewards program that allows customers to earn frequent-flyer miles and other perks when paying for such things as purses and parking will make the airport more attractive to passengers and get them to spend more.
The announcement on Wednesday was made at the airport's core, which had a $10 million renovation, adding several new stores.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has said his priority at the airport is to attract more flights and passengers and that the loyalty program will enhance customer service.
“We have customers who love our Airmall, and they have more reasons to be repeat customers,” Fitzgerald said. “To attract new flyers we also need to have the highest regard for the customer experience at the airport and that's what we want to make sure of — that people enjoy their experience when they use our airport.”
Customers earn one frequent-flyer mile for every dollar spent, or two hotel points.
Jim Gill, acting executive director of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, expected that earning rewards for parking would be popular. He said 7,000 people in the Pittsburgh area are signed up through other airports that offer the program around the country.
“If I was aware of it, I might have signed up,” said Eric Bruno, 41, of Franklin, Tenn., who bought a hat at Lids. “If I knew I was going to buy something anyway and I knew this was offered, I would probably buy it here rather than (outside the airport).”
Bill Swelbar, a research engineer at MIT's International Center for Air Transportation, said airports across the country are trying strategies to prod customers to come back often. Pittsburgh's program seems reasonable, he said.
“Honestly, I think we're in an incubation period for airports that are providing incentives for customers,” Swelbar said. “If customers spend money at the airport, ultimately that lowers the costs. I know that's important to (Pittsburgh International).”
The program, run by Atlanta-based Thanks Again LLC, will cost the airport authority up to $66,000 annually plus a $5,000 launch fee. The costs include a $1,000 monthly program fee, which is waived when there are 50 non-airport merchants signed up to participate. The rest of the cost is from a 4 percent transaction fee with a cap of $4,500 per month. That cost drops to 3 percent once the program reaches 20,000 enrollments within a 75-mile radius, airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said.
Sales at the Airmall slumped after US Airways dropped Pittsburgh as a hub a decade ago but have remained consistent during the past five years. The Airmall was named the nation's best concessions program for a midsized airport by trade publication Airport Revenue News in 2013. Jay Kruisselbrink, vice president of development for concessions manager Airmall USA, said revenue totaled $56 million last year, up 2.2 percent from 2012.
Sales revenue reached $90 million in 2001 when 20 million passengers used the airport. Last year, about 7.85 million passengers did.
Businessman William Krol signed up on Wednesday.
“(The airlines) are making the frequent flyer miles harder than ever, and this is another way to build up your points,” said Krol, of Franklin Park.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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