‘Route development is like dating!’ Talking MWAA’s route development strategy with Tom Reich

Posted: 2 March 2023 | | No comments yet

At the recent ROUTES Asia 2023 conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we spoke with Tom Reich, Air Service Development and Retention Director at Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the operator of Reagan International Airport and Dulles International Airport.

According to Tom Reich, Air Service Development and Retention Director at Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Reagan International Airport is back to its full pre-pandemic passenger levels, whilst Dulles International, on the other hand, is lagging a bit behind.

Demand to Europe has nearly fully recovered but Asian demand has still not yet recovered fully and having that “piece missing from your portfolio” is pretty significant but they are anticipating a near full recovery by the end of this year. MWAA’s catchment area is the entire Washington DC Metropolitan area. For international airlines, Tom says that they expand this area because people are willing to drive a greater distance for a non-stop international flight.

When speaking about how the expectations of passengers have changed Tom said that the way passengers use the airport has evolved, they are using parking more, people are obviously still wary to be near strangers and so will take their own vehicle. Cleanliness and hygiene also continue to be important for their travellers.

We discuss sustainable aviation fuels and whether this is an important part of the conversation when speaking with airlines now. Tom said that they are working with their airlines to outline their expectations when it comes to SAF in the future. Speaking about how MWAA retains airlines once they have started working together and Tom outlined that under MWAA’s Cooperative Marketing Programme, all airlines receive certain matched funds for marketing of their flights – and this is existing or new routes. Landing fee waiver programmes that encourage incremental growth are another tool that they use. We also spoke about how long the route to market is for new destinations, Tom likened route development to dating, saying you can meet with an airline and launch a new route within a month, but others can take 30 years!

Finally we ended on the biggest challenge facing route developers, to which Tom replied the shortage of pilots in the U.S. He said that every airline has aircraft that they would like to be flying more but there are not enough pilots to operate them. Tom said that if the crew shortage could be eliminated there is probably 5-10% more air service that could exist!

Watch the full interview now! 

Send this to a friend