by Bekah Porter
CORRIDOR – Tim Bradshaw is right where he wants to be.
“I love it here,” he said.
The newly instated airport director for The Eastern Iowa Airport had two priorities when looking for a new place to call home.
“I wanted to be at an airport that was classified as a small hub, and I wanted to be somewhere with wholesome people and family values,” Mr. Bradshaw said. “I got just that.
Mr. Bradshaw started his new position on June 28. He previously served as the deputy executive director and chief operating official for the Louisville Regional Airport Authority in Kentucky.
Here’s what he had to say about his expectations for the new position:
Q: What has been your impression of the airport thus far?
A: I’m highly impressed. The airport is well run and well established. Despite the turmoil of the airline industry and economy, it’s been able to maintain its seats in the markets.
Q: What do you most want to improve in your new position?
A: We’re always looking at improving our airline service. That’s the most visible. That’s what the community sees. So, we’re constantly talking to the carriers to make sure that we have the accessibility to the top markets. And frequency of flights is just as important as pricing, so we’re always analyzing our levels of service to make sure it meets our travelers’ needs.
Q: What other priorities do you plan to tackle?
A: We have data that supports how much of our traffic goes into the top 15 markets, so our goal in the next 12 to 18 months is to try to maximize access to those markets. In that process, you have to be careful to separate your business traveler from the vacation traveler. The vacation traveler can be more sensitive to price, where the business traveler just needs to get there and back.
Q: What direct flights would you most like to have?
A: (Washington) D.C. We have 63 passengers daily to D.C., so we would love a direct flight to the East Coast. So, there’s that, and we’re also looking at the possibly a different hub service, maybe to Atlanta or Memphis. Atlanta is the busiest airport in the U.S., and it would open up a lot of markets for us.
Q: How will you expand air service?
A: It’s a constant discussion with our carriers (America, United, Delta, Allegiant). It’s no different than trying to recruit a business or industry to the area. You tell them about your market. You educate them. You tell them the exciting things that are happening in the local markets. We have to lead them to the water. We want them to either add more flights or larger airplanes or different hubs and connections. The other half of that equation is our responsibility to work with our business community. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to meet with the top business leaders to talk about their needs. We need to be the middleman who goes back to these carriers and tells them about our businesses’ needs.
Q: How do you plan to attract clients to the Cedar Rapids airport?
A: We really need to make this the airport of choice for everybody in the Corridor. We want to make sure our amenities are top notch and that the customer service is the best. We want to make sure we’re at the top of the list of airports, and that comes down to having friendly staff, good food and restaurants, nice news and gifts. Flying is a lot of anxiety for people. You want to get through security and get to your destination as soon as possible, and our job is to make that experience as pleasant as possible. That’s the part we can control.
Q: How do you plan to collaborate with the employers in the area?
A: We will meet with the CEO or the person responsible for the company’s travel, and we will get the information from them on where they most travel to, and then we will relay that information back to the airlines. Business travel really is the bread and butter of the airlines. Business flyers are the ones who sustain the industry in a community, and we need to find out what they need.
Q: How will you compete with other area airports?
A: We need to build some brand loyalty. We need to make people want to fly out of their hometown airport instead of getting into their cars and driving two to three hours. And we need to work with our carriers to make sure our pricing is competitive.
Q: What will your approach be to flight fares?
A: We don’t have much control over that, really. We just have to monitor the prices and hold our carriers’ feet to the fire to make sure those prices are in line. But the more passengers we can put on the planes, the lower prices can be. We can keep the costs low for the airlines, and we are one of the lowest in the area for cost per passenger, and we remind the carriers of that, remind them, that they need to help us out.
Q: In addition to the ongoing runway renovation, do you have any other plans to improve airport infrastructure?
A: We have some smaller projects we’re working on. We’re looking at some taxiway improvements for the general aviation traffic (the corporate aircrafts and recreational fliers). And we’re doing some terminal improvements. One of the projects I’m really excited about is that we’re going to move those big X-ray machines for your luggage behind the ticketway, which will make things in the airport more attractive.