How does a small gateway such as yours compete against the marketing budgets of your nearby large rivals?
We fund our marketing programme adequately to compete effectively and we try to not get distracted by the competition. We know what works and how much it costs. That’s helped us succeed for over 15 years.
What did the nomination for the Routes Airport Marketing Awards in 2010 mean for Akron-Canton?
It was a huge honour. To be recognised by global airlines for our marketing success was simply amazing. Regardless of recognition, however we are committed to supporting carriers that serve our community. It is win-win-win for the airport, the airlines and our travellers.
What type of increase in air services has Akron-Canton experienced in the past year?
We broke our all-time passenger record in 2010 and exceeded 1.5 million passengers for the first time ever. That success has largely been fuelled by increased capacity by low-fare carriers AirTran Airways and Frontier Airlines. Plus, US Airways has increased capacity significantly. The only new route was with SkyWest Airlines – in partnership with AirTran Airways – to General Mitchell International, Milwaukee (MKE), which has done very well.
Which route launch are you most proud of?
Definitely Milwaukee. It is a wonderful city and a focus for AirTran Airways. It was a challenge though, because the service commenced in January, which is a notoriously bad month in which to start a new flight. We stuck with it, MKE stuck with it, and SkyWest and AirTran stuck with it. It has exceeded any of our expectations.
What is Akron-Canton’s long-term air services strategy?
It is to preserve our low fare advantage, to continue to work with our incumbent airlines to increase routes and capacity, and to recruit new air service when it benefits the community, the carrier and the airport.
Are international services on your radar?
Yes - we will build a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility at CAK in 2014 and will start recruiting airlines in 2012/13.
Can you tell us a bit more about CAK 2018?
That is our 10-year, long-range capital plan. It involves a $110 million investment in 10 vital projects for our airfield. We have just commissioned our runway 5/23 extension and safety upgrade, which is a $60 million expenditure. It was an important milestone for us, because the additional length will allow our carriers to fly further, to Los Angeles or Texas for example. It is more than just pavement; it is opportunity for the future. In 2011 we shall expand our gate security area, making the experience more relaxing for our customers. We shall also add more car parking and build a new aircraft rescue and firefighting facility (ARFF). It will be another exciting year. It is important to note that we are able to cover the costs of this programme using FAA grants and PFC revenues. That means that we can cover the costs of the entire programme without having to rely on our air carrier partners for any financial help. We are committed to leading the way in keeping low costs to airlines.
Which new air services are you most keen to secure in 2011?
We are most interested in a positive outcome from the Southwest Airlines’ acquisition of AirTran Airways.
What role does the airport play in the local community?
We generate a $400 million annual economic impact – that means jobs, income and taxes. It is something of which we are most proud.
How did you originally get into the airport business?
I got lucky! I met Fred Krum (former airport director) at a Chamber of Commerce meeting 15 years ago. We worked together outside of the airport for a while and when the opportunity to design and execute a fresh and innovating marketing programme at CAK surfaced, I knew that I wanted to get into the business.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
I absolutely love my job – the people, the variety, the competition, the constant change. It works for me. The worst part of my job is maybe hearing: “No, not this time Kristie.”
How do you spend any free time away from work?
I am also a mother and love spending time with my family, playing games or going on nature hikes. I also run and volunteer with a variety of community groups. I stay very, very busy.
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
First, I would have lunch with my former boss and mentor, Fred Krum. He passed away two years ago and I wish I had written more of his advice down on paper. I am still inspired by him. Next would be Maya Angeleou. I am so moved by her writing, her poise and power and her femininity. Third, I would have to lunch with Herb Kelleher. I’d throw back a little Wild Turkey with Herb. It would be a gas! He was a visionary leader who knew how to have fun. His energy still infuses the team at Southwest Airlines.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what could you not live without?
My kids, my husband, and my airplane models. Who needs food and water when you have love, right?
This article features in Routes News 2011 Issue 1