Airports have an innate conflict—they are most appreciative of their existing service, they want more flights, but by soliciting more carriers, the incumbents are offended. An airport director who mounts a major campaign to attract new airlines is not likely to get good reviews from his tenants, who coincidentally pay a great portion of the facility’s staff’s salary.
The Washington Airport Task Force was created initially by a former Rep. Wolf staff person. The Congressman was a proponent of Dulles International. Leo Schefer, a Brit by birth, took over the reins of WATF and built it into a dynamo.
The worse thing that an airport support group (there are actually many of them) can do is to show up at an airline marketing senior executive’s office and espouse the wonders of your favorite airport in gross generalities. The meat of these decision-makers about the company’s next market entry is detailed data about demand over the segment, likely connecting traffic and businesses located at each end of the proposed flight which would fly more with better service. Leo learned the complex numbers and research which caused his audience to drool
Equally important to the minuets associated with these meetings is the presence of real people. As good as Leo and his team were, the inclusion of people, whose companies BUY lots of tickets, really got the attention of the target airlines. Empty promises are not as compelling as business persons with travel budgets and check books. The Board of the Task Force was populated with the Who’s Who of the DMV area.
Leo’s leadership took his members beyond the fences of Dulles and National. He was one of the most able advocates to secure the National Air & Space Museum’s annex, now known as the Udvar -Hazy Center , for the DC area. His team also were able, behind-the-scene ambassadors for the Silver Line to Dulles, the outer Beltway and many other area issues.
Losing Leo would ordinarily be a major blow to the causes associated with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; having such an able ally and being able to assert that he is an independent agent was such a huge plus. Fortunately, Keith Meurlein, the former head of Dulles, is available to try to fill Leo’s shoes. Great choice!
One of Leo’s secrets—his British accent. Americans and foreigners equate the pronounced diction of his native tongue with superior intelligence ;-)
Thanks Leo for your years of service to the travelers of DMV; there are plenty of flights around the country and the world which have come here in large part due to his expertiseShare this article: