The Quad-City International Airport is rolling out a new Fly Local Alliance in an effort to encourage more allegiance among area companies and their employees to the regional airport.

Through the new alliance, the airport is asking area businesses with employees who travel to "look before they book" at the Quad-City airport's options and make it a priority to fly local when possible. The airport developed the initiative in cooperation with the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce's Air Service Committee.

Cathie Rochau, the airport's marketing representative, stressed that the alliance is not a group or a committee and there is no cost to participate. Rather, the alliance is seeking endorsements from area employers, large and small.

She said the alliance's mission is to help foster stronger relationships with area companies and create an open dialogue. "Hopefully in return, our area companies will understand the importance of a thriving airport and feel ... a sense 'that this is my airport.'"

The alliance's kick-off comes as the airport is working to identify ways to retain and increase passengers, including curbing the growing number of Quad-City area passengers driving to Chicago and elsewhere for air service, or what the airline industry refers to as leakage.

"We want to first and foremost reduce our leakage," Dave Heller, co-owner of the Quad-Cities River Bandits and the Air Service Committee chairman, said in an interview.

"We want people who live and work in the Quad-Cities to use the Quad-City airport," said Heller, who has been a vocal advocate of the airport.

As alliance members, companies and organizations pay no membership fee but do agree to communicate with airport officials about their travel trends and other factors that impact their corporate travel spending. Alliance members also agree to promote two new airport tools to their work forces, including an airport customer satisfaction survey and an online true-trip cost calculator.

According to Rochau, the two-question survey asks travelers to rate the airport and include comments about their rating. "This is more opportunity to receive feedback," she said. "That's where we may hear things that are important to people, but may not be related to the flight. Those are things we can fix."

The new cost calculator allows travelers who are planning to fly for business or leisure to compare all the costs of flying from the Quad-City airport vs. other airports in Chicago and regionally.

Heller said the calculator allows travelers to know the true cost of choosing another airport from the cost of driving, including gasoline, parking, tolls and hotel costs, to what it costs the traveler in time.

"We are actively trying to grow this airport," he said. "The only way we can do it successfully is for people who live, work in the Quad-Cities and choose air travel to choose to fly out of the Quad-City airport." 

Aviation Director Bruce Carter said the alliance will provide the airport and the longstanding chamber subcommittee with more formalized tools for measuring feedback and to expand participation. "As regional and national market forces in the airline industry continue to evolve, this program enables endorsing participants to be an ambassador within their own spheres of influence," he said.

By endorsing the alliance, area companies will receive additional benefits at the airport including complimentary passes to the airport's business center/lounge, on-site assistance for corporate travelers, VIP welcome signage for guests, and on-site meeting room access.

Endorsing the alliance does not require participating on the Air Service Committee, which is made up of chamber, business and community leaders. But the committee will be updated on the start-up phase of the alliance at its Jan. 17 meeting.

Early companies and organizations endorsing the Fly Local Alliance include: Modern Woodmen of America, Kent Corp., MediaLink, Quad-Cities River Bandits, Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, Quad-Cities Chamber, Southeast National Bank, Admospheres Media & Marketing, and US Bank. Any member who endorses the alliance by year end will be considered an inaugural member.

“The importance of buying local means more jobs and services to our community, and buying local includes air travel, too," said W. Kenny Massey, the president and CEO of Modern Woodmen, headquartered in Rock Island. "More passengers using the Quad City International Airport means more air carriers will consider this region for expansions."

For more information about Fly Local Alliance, visit www.qcairport.com/alliance. To join, contact Cathie Rochau at 309 757-1743.

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