Washington Dulles International Airport turns to advertising to lure passengers

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Local,Liz Essley,MWAA,Metro and Traffic,Air Travel

Officials at Washington Dulles International Airport are trying a new tactic to lure passengers: radio ads not just for airlines or new flight options, but for the airport itself.

The Virginia airport has been losing passengers over the past year, with the number of domestic passengers dropping by nearly 1 million, or 9 percent, from 2011 to 2012. Those numbers dropped again in the first quarter of 2013, down nearly 12 percent from the same period last year.

Officials say that's because Congress is allowing more flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which is shifting passengers there, and because consumers want more of the low-cost flights that Reagan and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport offer.

The additional flights Congress has allowed at Reagan "have shifted similar service away from Dulles International, escalating that airport's costs and, therefore, expenses to airlines," Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority CEO Jack Potter wrote to federal authorities last year.

The average flight out of BWI cost $318.32 in the last quarter of 2012, while the average flight out of Dulles cost $493.04, federal statistics show.

But Dulles is still getting more international travelers and is trying to make that a major moneymaker.

"From sunrise in Sao Paolo, to sunset in Seoul, Dulles International Airport can take you there," the new radio ads for the airport say. "With nonstop flights to Brazil and South Korea, plus 46 other international destinations, Dulles International -- we'll take you everywhere."

International travel at Dulles rose 5 percent in the first quarter of 2013 from the same period last year, with a total of 1.3 million passengers.

"We want to make people aware of the fact that they have a great opportunity to travel internationally through Dulles without transferring anywhere else in the United States," Potter said.

Potter said the authority's advertising typically partners with airlines to promote new flights to exotic locales, but this time the authority decided to advertise the airport itself.

"We decided to concentrate some of our dollars for advertising specifically in this market for services out of Dulles airport," he said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner