About 50 percent of people who travel by airplane in the Killeen area use the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport to get to their destinations, according to the city’s top airport executive.
With several competitors in the area, from Waco Regional airport to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Killeen travelers have options.
“It is not unusual for airports of our size to have a greater number than that (not flying out of their regional airport),” said Matt Van Valkenburgh, Killeen’s executive director of aviation. Numbers have improved and officials are trying to get more locals to fly from Killeen.
Marketing and competing prices play a role in getting more people to use the airport, Van Valkenburgh said.
We have an airport?
Because Killeen has a fairly transient community, the airport is faced with having to constantly educate area residents about its services.
“One of the things that we get from the newer families is that they don’t even know we have an airport,” Van Valkenburgh said.
“We are really concentrating on that. We are changing the marketing strategy to target Fort Hood.”
About $300,000 goes to market the airport, said John Crutchfield, the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce president and Killeen Economic Development Corporation secretary. The Killeen EDC distributes money to the airport for marketing.
About five percent of the cost is spent on consultants who handle the placement of a wide array of advertisements, from billboards and TV commercials to direct mailing, Van Valkenburgh said.
The remainder pays for production and placing of advertising.
“I think we are getting a long bang for our buck,” Van Valkenburgh said. “We spread the media around, so a lot of people get to view it.”
Cost of flights
Keeping costs competitive with other regional airports is another way Killeen tries to encourage locals to fly.
“We try to keep our fares as close as we can be to Austin, and if we notice that we are different from them, we start to talk to our (airline) partners,” Van Valkenburgh said.
Ferman Weddon, who co-owns ANS Shuttle Service in Harker Heights, said his company shuttles people to both Killeen Regional and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
“We will pick up 6 to 1,” Weddon said, meaning his passengers favor Killeen six out of seven times.
Those choosing Austin often cite the larger airport’s prices and possibility of direct flights to their destinations. ANS will drive to Austin for $80.
According to the American Airlines website, flight prices vary at DFW, Austin, Killeen and Waco airports.
Flights to Washington, D.C., on American Airlines leaving Dec. 6 and returning Dec. 8 from Killeen was $18 cheaper than Austin, $100 more than DFW and $151 more than Waco.
Flights to Seattle on the same airline and days from Killeen were $8 more expensive than Austin, $10 more expensive than DFW, and $107 less than Waco.
Killeen has to stay in close contact with the airlines that operate from the regional airport to ensure comparable prices, but the airport also tries to solicit more airlines to come to Killeen, Van Valkenburgh said. More airlines means more options.
Weddon said his business travels more to Austin during the holidays.
“It depends on the time of the year,” he said. “During the holiday period, we do take more to Austin, because they get discount round-trip tickets, and they don’t want to have to be doing switching.”
Weddon said tends to favor Killeen’s airport and tries to promote it whenever he can.
Killeen has a targeted service area of residents living throughout Central Texas, from Temple and Gatesville to north of Georgetown and Lampasas, Van Valkenburgh said. He hopes more area residents start to use the airport.
“If someone is not flying out our airport, I would like to know why? What can we do to ensure they fly with us?” he said. “We are your hometown airport.”
While Killeen Regional is unlikely to break 2010’s boarding record of more than 212,000, it is on pace to eclipse 2012, which had 169,000 people boarding aircraft.
From January to September, about 129,000 people boarded planes in Killeen, according to information from the city. Last year, there was about 123,000 through the same period.
Waco Regional Airport experienced about 54,000 people boarding from January to September. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport boarded more than 3.7 million people during the same period.
Killeen has nine American flights, averages about five United flights, and two Delta flights coming and going per day, said Hilary Shine, Killeen’s spokeswoman.
Waco offers fewer flights than Killeen, with five American Eagle flights leaving the airport daily. Austin offers significantly more flights than Killeen.