Air Transport World

Denver regionals express themselves. (mergers)

Denver regionals express themselves

In a time when the emphasis of business marketing is on "corporate image' and "brand identification,' what happens when a company loses its name; the very thing on which its public reputation is built? Three regional airlines currently are going through this exercise in Denver, Colo., choosing to give up established identities to become part of other airline systems: Aspen Airways, joining United Express; Rocky Mountain Airways (RMA) and Trans-Colorado (TCA), going with United Express' competition, Continental Express.

Under agreements with two major carriers dominating the Denver market (see related story in this issue), these three regionals are dropping names, designator codes, aircraft paint schemes and uniforms, and watching as their old identities fade from public sight and mind.

Aspen, the largest and oldest of the three, started in 1953 as an air taxi. Now operating 12 planes, including jets, to 13 cities, Aspen has the most to lose or, perhaps, gain. To Gerald Hickman, president since Aspen became a scheduled airline in 1967, the loss of the name and the bright leafy logo is "somewhat painful.' Over the years the airline has become a dominant regional, especially in the lucrative Aspen ski resort area. Aspen enjoyed "a perfect safety record and good public image,' Hickman says.

"We've established a good reputation not only in the local markets, but also with a number of other airlines with whom we have had long-term interline relationships . . . But, this is a matter of survival,' he says, referring to Aspen's entry into the United Express system on September 1.

"All of us in this business--even those who said they wouldn't join with one the majors--have come to the realization that the electronic monster called "The Computer' is what gets the passengers on board. Your position on the CRT dictates your market share. Travel agents won't spend time flipping screens to get to us if we're not up front.' With more than 70% of Colorado agents on United's Apollo reservation system, which Aspen now takes advantage of with a joint "UA' code, Hickman estimates that a comparable percentage of his revenues "are made on the first screen.'

He looks at this as "being part of a franchise, like a Wendy's. They (United) set the standards, do the marketing, and we feed each other through a coordinated schedule; but we continue to operate as an independent.' Aspen Airways had little to do to become a United Express entity, having entered a marketing agreement with United Airlines three years ago, at which time most of the schedule reorganization was done. "We just had to change the flight numbers and paint the planes,' Hickman said. The latter was the hard part, psychologically, for Aspen's chief, who was involved with the design of the original logo. …

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