Lambert Airport’s strategy to extend ultra-low-cost options
As the demand for leisure travel skyrockets, Lambert Airport is sending a clear message: there are options for everyone.
ST. LOUIS – The pandemic has been a bad time for air travel.
Confined spaces and general proximity to other travelers have virtually cut off air travel for many Americans. Now Saint Louisians are emerging from the stagnant days of the pandemic and are eager to start traveling again. During the week of June 6, Lambert’s TSA checkpoint volume reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic, with 105,482 passengers entering airport security checkpoints. That number was up from just over 60,000 during the week of December 27.
Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, the director of Lambert, helped guide the airport through the pandemic and shared insight into how Lambert worked with its airlines during the pandemic, and the airport’s strategy as air travel slowly return to normal.
What was the airport’s initial strategy to resist the pandemic? We had two key pieces. (The first one) was doing everything we could to keep the passengers safe. We focused on protocols and security measures to reassure the traveling public that it was safe to fly. The second element was to really focus on remaining a strong partner for our airline partners, with the hope that we could come out stronger at the back. Everything we did was aligned with the airlines – making sure we discussed what we were doing with them on a weekly basis (and making sure) that was an acceptable measure of their business. point of view, not only from an operational point of view of cleanliness and protocols but from a financial point of view. We wanted to make sure they knew where we were cutting costs without compromising passenger safety or operational safety.
What trends are you seeing in the airline industry as travel picks up? We are clearly seeing a trend towards leisure markets. We know that people have had pent-up demand after having had few vacations or trips in the past year. This desire for the leisure market is driving a good percentage of the rebound right now. In addition to the Florida markets, we saw additional flights to Vegas; Californian markets; Hilton Head, South Carolina; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (Our airport doesn’t have) markets like Idaho or Wyoming, but those destinations are also seeing a big increase in the number of people looking for an outdoor vacation.
What about business travel? I think we will see business travel back to normal next year. I speak a lot to our companies here in the St. Louis area, and very few, if any, of them still have travel bans. Many of them see travel as essential – it has to be a major face-to-face transaction or a face-to-face sales meeting. As we move through this pandemic, if more and more people get vaccinated and the numbers continue in the right direction, I think the need for business travel will return.
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