Coalition Formed to Attract Business to A.C. Airport
As airports throughout the United States scale back airline service and airport expansion, the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) has formed a new coalition to expand air service and attract new airline carriers to its Atlantic City International Airport (ACY). SJTA, which owns and operates the airport, is seeking to open up new markets to support Atlantic City as a destination and to provide broadened air service through ACY. The coalition includes representatives from every major casino as well as elected officials, New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.
Currently, Spirit Airlines is the sole airline carrier providing service at ACY to limited destinations in Florida, South Carolina and parts of the Caribbean with connecting service to Latin America. ACY has enjoyed steady annual increases in passenger counts, with 1.2 million passengers in 2007. Spirit’s success at ACY combined with the airport’s expansion potential and easy access to Atlantic City from points north/south and east/west in New Jersey and the Philadelphia market makes it a prime target for new airlines and expanded service.
“Leaders across all industries in the Atlantic City and the South Jersey region recognize the convenient time and cost saving advantages of this airport as well as the importance it plays in taking Atlantic City to the next level,” said Bart R. Mueller, SJTA Executive Director. “Today’s environment in Atlantic City and the region has created the opportunity for new airlines to be financially successful, and this coalition has come together in a cohesive effort to create incentives as the final tipping point to expand existing service and draw new carriers and flight frequencies to ACY.”
According to Mueller, ACY has tremendous capacity for growth and development as the airport site is so large that it can contain all of Philadelphia International and Newark Liberty International Airports and 60 percent of LaGuardia Airport. Plans include an $18 million terminal expansion, a $10 million apron expansion, a hotel and conference center, and freight and cargo development. The SJTA has already begun to ready the facilities for expanded service and more passengers.
A state-of-the-art baggage screening facility was recently completed as part of a $7.1 million airport renovation and improvement program, which will also result in upgrades to the terminal building. A $24.5 million, six-story, 1,370-space parking garage to expand parking capacity opened this summer just steps from the terminal building. The garage also accommodates rental cars and rental car offices, freeing up areas in the terminal for additional leased space.
“Atlantic City’s revenues have been challenged as many visitors within the drive market are being pulled away by slot parlors and racinos in New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Expanding service at ACY will make Atlantic City’s casinos, shops and restaurants convenient to a previously untapped market of visitors,” said Maureen Adams, Vice President of National Casino Marketing & Sales for Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.
At the same time, ACY’s radius of potential passengers has expanded. According to an internal study conducted by the SJTA, travelers from outside of the southern New Jersey region have discovered ACY offers the shortest wait time among the region’s airports, low-cost parking and easy baggage retrieval, demonstrating the potential of ACY as the airline of choice in New Jersey and throughout the region.
The coalition is specifically targeting new markets in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and cities east of the Mississippi with incentives that include waiving airport fees, marketing resources in new markets and promotion to convention and meeting planners.
Atlantic City has grown into a major east coast destination. In addition to its historic Boardwalk and miles of beaches, the city now has over 23,000 hotel rooms, luxury casino hotels, star-studded entertainment, upscale dining including celebrity chefs and high-end restaurant chains, lavish spas and resort-like offerings and an array of shopping from designer stores at The Pier at Caesars to the outlets at The Walk.
“We can’t be a world-class destination if the world can’t get to us,” says Assemblyman John Burzichelli, chairman of the state’s Tourism and Gaming Commission and a member of the coalition.
In addition the rooms, entertainment, dining and shopping, Atlantic City is ripe to attract conventions and meetings with the Atlantic City Convention Center and Boardwalk Hall.
“Atlantic City’s assets make the city one of the most attractive destinations for conventions and meetings,” said Jeff Vasser, President of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority. “Everything else is in place: hotel rooms, a great convention center, restaurants, shows.
Expanded air services at ACY presents the final hurdle for Atlantic City to realize its potential as a sought-after convention site competitive with any in the nation.”
Member organizations of the coalition include: South Jersey Transportation Authority, New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, Tropicana Casino and Resort, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc., Trump Marina, The Borgata, Hilton Atlantic City, Resorts Casino Hotel, Pinnacle Entertainment, Revel Entertainment, The Cordish Company Gaming Operations, The Pier, The Chelsea, Margaritaville, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., and elected government officials.