Sometimes buying a direct flight isn’t the fastest way from A to B. And sometimes it’s faster to fly to Chicago or Dallas from Colorado Springs instead of Denver — especially once you factor in crowded parking, long security lines and the bumper-to-bumper drive up Interstate 25.
It’s a message Colorado Springs Airport is pushing out to businesses in 2019: Check COS first — it could be faster, and cheaper, to get there from here.
“It’s a major initiative this year,” said COS Air Service Development Manager Joshua Stone. With Marketing and Communications Manager Aidan Ryan, he discussed the effort — “COS: You Can Get There From Here” — with the Business Journal.
Colorado Springs Airport battles a number of popular misconceptions that tend to steer business and leisure travelers 96 miles north to Denver International Airport, they explained.
“One of the biggest ones is cost,” Ryan said.
Travelers assume they’ll find the best ticket prices by choosing DIA. And while tickets to Colorado Springs airport’s top 10 markets generally cost $90-100 more from COS than DIA, that’s not the case for other destinations.
“If you look at the grander scheme, not just our top 10 markets, our 2016 Leakage Study [of passengers lost to other airports] showed that the vast majority of our market — about 82 percent — were driving to Denver,” Stone said, “but they were only paying about $20 less for tickets. Now, that might make sense and be worthwhile for a family of six, but for a business traveler or even a couple, it’s very difficult to go through all that hassle to save 20 bucks. But that’s what people are doing.”
Ryan said the difficult drive to Denver is a constant for Springs travelers choosing to fly out of DIA.
“You can get gridlocked; you can miss your flight,” she said. “It has nothing to do with peak times. There is no ‘peak’ time — it’s any time.”
As part of the effort to change the way business travelers see COS and how they spend their travel time and money, the Colorado Springs airport team has assembled figures comparing the total travel time to top destinations from COS and DIA once drive time, parking, security time and dwell time are included.
For example, Dallas/Fort Worth is 3 hours 6 minutes from COS compared with 4 hours 48 minutes from DIA, while London Heathrow is 12 hours 30 min from COS compared with 12 hours from DIA [see table below].
“Anything that’s data-driven, we can provide,” Ryan said. “Pricing and routes and connections that are faster from COS with one stop than from Denver direct — we have all that.
“The whole concept that we’re in the development stages of — especially for businesses — is how we can best communicate connection times, dwell time, how much time you actually save from here, and how that makes business that much easier,” she added. “The research and the data that Josh has been doing shows … oftentimes even with just one connection, it’s faster than flying direct. People just go for that direct flight thinking it’s going to be the most convenient, but in reality it isn’t always — or you have a second option. And we want to be able to better communicate what those options are.
“I think our marketing for so long has been direct, direct, direct, direct. And when you have limited direct flights, it limits our scope — and everyone is like, ‘Oh, if you don’t fly here, I’m not going to look.’ Now we have different data that says, ‘These are our direct flights, but we connect to six major international hubs that can pretty much get you to anywhere you want to be.’”
COS is tackling other misconceptions as well. It’s not uncommon for travelers to assume that all flights from COS go through Denver, Ryan said.
“I just don’t think people understand what we do, and that we are a real airport. It’s amazing — you’ll have one population that is ‘only fly COS’ … and then you have other people that say, ‘Oh! But don’t you guys just fly to Denver?’”
In total, 320 destinations are available from COS nonstop or with one stop this summer.
Stone said COS’ campaign is also about “just embracing who we are … embracing that we are a major feeder for the connecting hubs.
“For a long, long time we’ve been on the nonstop kick, if you will,” he said, “and we will never win that game. Denver has more nonstop destinations in the United States than any other airport, and that’s simply something we can’t compete with. They’re the only three-hub airport in the United States. Very few geographies worldwide have three carriers running a huge connecting operation like they have in Denver.”
But DIA’s strength as a hub is also valuable to travelers from COS.
“We have the benefit of eight to 10 flights a day to Denver … and that gives us all of the benefit of those connections,” Stone said. “The flight is so short, you skip all of the traffic driving there, you have a short layover there, you’ve already cleared security here, and you can access Denver’s 200 destinations — all of them.”
COS will continue to develop the campaign throughout 2019, Ryan said.
“People get used to going to Denver, so it becomes part of their routine,” she added. “But try us once, and see how it is. See the difference.”