For our Airport, being seen means being believed…

Business engagement from John Lennon Airport is a great step forward - now it's our turn to reciprocate

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Head of Business Engagement & Communications at Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Thu 26th, Feb

“We will create the airport our region loves.”

 

Last week’s Chamber of Commerce session with Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s Chief Executive, Andrew Cornish, and his management team gave us a great insight into the current status of the airport and how new blood can reignite the energy in an apparently tired organisation.

 

Never before has the Airport had such an open and engaging Chief Executive who has spoken of the Airport using realism and honesty in his assessment. His quote above reflects a perception that at some point, we fell out of love with our airport. But how and when did this happen?

 

Apparently it’s all about those ’08 carpets.

 

Perhaps it’s more to do with our obsession with Manchester and an unconscious (or perhaps increasingly conscious) sense of inferiority to what’s seen as the in-vogue economic powerhouse of the North. The airport has perhaps become the symbol of the contrasting scale and scope of both cities – as Manchester shows little sign of slowing it’s growth rate of routes, destinations and air carriers, little ol’ Liverpool is there depositing its handful of customers to a fraction of the destinations.

 

And I mentioned the carpet, right?

 

Customer experience is everything in the 21st century; it’s the marketers phrase of choice and in a world demanding instant gratification, lapses in standards are seized upon by consumers and escalate in the time it takes to switch on your mobile and tweet. The PR concerning drop off charges prove it.

 

The Airport’s self-diagnosis as “a bit marmite” is perfectly indicative of our relationship with it. It’s refreshing that the management team’s focus on customer service will ensure that the ‘minor’ things such as carpets, toilets, accessibility, greetings are very much in focus. Such improvements inevitably leave a positive impression, for customers, visitors, holiday-makers and investors.

 

We now have an airport which doesn’t aspire to be the biggest, grandest, most connected airport in the universe. Such aspirations are out of kilter with the real world. What we have is an airport that remains ambitious in its aspiration to be niche, boutique and connected to appropriate destinations, through a hub or directly where feasible.

 

Lost amidst the doom and gloom rhetoric are some real positives: 4m passengers in 2014, 10% business travellers, increased load factors and the serving of more than 60+ destinations with the most recent link to Prague commencing in May.

 

Engagement with Andrew and his team is invaluable. Businesses in this city region now have a responsibility to back the Airport up, to act as its Ambassadors and to contribute to its market engagement efforts.

 

The airport is surveying businesses on their travel requirements, understanding the destinations and frequency of visits on business and the locations from which they receive visitors. Without this market intelligence the Airport cannot make an informed business case to commercial airline operators who won’t introduce new routes to Liverpool on a wing and a prayer (if you’ll excuse the pun).

 

If you have specific destination requirements as a business or within your networks, let the airport know. If you need a specific link from Liverpool, it’s crucial this requirement is made clear and, where possible, quantified. If a lack of connectivity with a specific market is stifling inward investment opportunities, let the airport know that too.

 

The watchword at JLA is “Potential.” There is a plan, a strategy and for the first time in forever, a real sense of engagement with the private sector.

 

It’s time to roll up the old carpet and fly.

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