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Airport tries to lure Masters jet-setters

It's not your average movie, but Keith Bounds is hoping it will bring him a little more green during the Masters Golf Tournament, April 3-9.

Mr. Bounds, the owner and president of Spirit Aviation, made a DVD containing a two-minute slide show promoting the Thomson-McDuffie Airport. A couple of weeks ago, he took the DVD to a schedulers and dispatchers convention in San Antonio. While the show is homemade and short, Mr. Bounds said he hopes it will keep Spirit Aviation on his potential customers' minds.

"I figure the longer you stay in someone's vision, the more likely they are to remember you and use your services," Mr. Bounds said.

The cover of the DVD includes a complete description of the airport, and boasts easy access to Augusta, shuttle service, free lunch served to crews during Masters, no landing fees (according to websites, Augusta airports not only charge landing fees, but increase them during Masters Week), and guarantees the lowest fuel prices in the area.

Mr. Bounds passed out the DVDs, along with Georgia peanuts, to the 1,700 in attendance at the convention.

"These people are probably the most influential in where planes decide to go for the Masters event. Not so much the pilots or the owners, as much as the schedulers and the dispatchers. So, it was a very targeted group," he said.

Last year, Mr. Bounds said his airport had 177 planes come in during the entire week of the golf tournament. By comparison, Daniel Field Airport in Augusta, said they usually see 80 to 100 planes per day during Masters, compared with their average of 15 to 20 the rest of the year, said counter clerk Jeff Crenshaw. Diane Vance, clerk at Augusta Regional Airport, said they saw "169 on Wednesday, and then every day after that was total chaos, it was an ocean of white out here" during Masters Week.

Mr. Bounds is working aggressively to bring those planes to Thomson. He said he was the only Augusta-area airport represented at the convention in San Antonio. While there, Mr. Bounds met the owner of, a website which provides free, detailed aeronautical information on airports, and other information to assist pilots in flight planning. From the owner, Mr. Bounds learned how to put ads on the website. When an interested person searching online goes to any Augusta area airport website, they find a link labeled "Masters 2006 info" which takes them to Mr. Bounds put an ad for the Thomson-McDuffie airport on the AirNav pages for Augusta Regional Airport, Daniel Field, and Aiken Municipal Airport.

"So it's a canvas of the whole area, very aggressive and very predatory. But the idea is that when someone goes to that site, they will click on that and they are immediately diverted to our airport. They (Augusta airports) are quite upset about it, but that's the way it works in a business. You take the opportunities you have, and make the best you can of them," Mr. Bounds said.

Mr. Bounds said he has no way of knowing if his "aggressive and predatory" strategy has worked until the first week in April. The airport operator said he is receiving some reservations, but many don't bother with the reservation process.

"The thing about Masters is you just don't know until they come, it really is the field of dreams. The tentative human nature, as well as this business, is they just don't decide until the last minute. That's the luxury of having a private jet - you don't have to make a reservation two weeks in advance and have a Saturday night stay," Mr. Bounds said.

Web posted on Thursday, March 23, 2006

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