While far from being a done deal, our tourism planners must be already galvanized into exploring further opportunities that potentially a merged American Airlines and US Airways could present for Barbados. Apart from the existing hubs of New York, Miami and to a lesser extent, Charlotte, a combined carrier would have a considerable presence in Chicago (1), Los Angeles (6), Phoenix (23) and Philadelphia (43). World ranking in terms of passengers handled are shown in brackets and collectively amount to over 202 million annually.
Having lost direct airlift out of Atlanta, Philadelphia and more recently, Dallas/Forth Worth, I would guess that there will be some reluctance to jump into another gateway. But with proper planning, implementation and consistent marketing support, the temptation may prove too overwhelming due to the numbers and reach involved.
The merged airline (AA/US) would leapfrog the carrier into first position, both in terms of the domestic market and international enplaned passengers to/from the United States. US Airways passengers would gain access to American Airlines international destinations and AA would be better able to connect to smaller U.S cities US Airways serve.
From the 7th September until 14th November, American Airlines will lower their mileage requirement to allow return travel from any point they serve in the Continental United States, Canada or Mexico to Barbados for just 25,000 miles. So whether you live in the north east corridor, mid west or pacific coast area, the miles required are the same irrespective of distance travelled. Geographically it opens up access to Barbados to millions of potential visitors that might normally find the normal published fare, financially inhibitive.
Take Seattle, Washington State, as an example. The lowest bookable fare online is US$832.40, but still only 25,000 miles through AAdvantage, plus a nominal US$56.50 in taxes and add-ons.
But some may say, you have to spend at least US$25,000 to obtain the minimum miles required. Not so, as many credit card issuers are giving very generous incentives for switching to their product.
Imagine having a virtually captive audience, motivated by all the right reasons and that is larger than your main source tourism market, the United Kingdom. That’s perhaps how we should be viewing the world’s first and probably the most successful loyalty programme, American Airlines AAdvantage.
Last year their 66 million members redeemed more than 165 billion miles to claim nearly 7.2 million awards for flights, upgrades and other rewards. Why do I consider it such an important tool to drive higher arrival numbers?
These people through their smart spending choices are accumulating the means to travel. In fact it goes beyond that now. Since last November, the programme has been expanded to allow members to redeem miles for car hire and hotel stays at more than 10,000 locations in 320 destinations worldwide. There is also the flexibility of using only miles or a combination of cash plus as few as 1,000 AAdvantage miles.
The new non-stop direct service from Dallas to Barbados, slated to start on the 16th December this year offers tremendous growth potential for our tourism industry. Not only will it tempt the estimated 6.5 million people that live in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area, the fourth largest metropolitan population in the United States, but it offers some incredible connecting city opportunities.
As the DFW airport website reminds us, no major city in the Continental United States is more than four flying hours from Dallas, so an overall in-the-air travelling time of less than ten hours will make all these cities accessible to Barbados. California which boasts a population over 36 million people, will then be able to reach us within a comfortable twelve hours, without the need to transit Miami.
American Airlines Texas hub has over 220 incoming flights DAILY serving 120 cities, ranging from Abilene to Wichita Falls.Add all the other airlines and the airport handles 58 million passengers a year or over 152,000 every day.