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City aims to improve airport image
New management emphasizes customer service
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Covington officials are emphasizing professionalism and customer service at the Covington Municipal Airport.

The city assumed operation of the airport on Wednesday, Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello said. Some of the city's management held an airport staff meeting Friday to describe their vision.

"Customer service has been one of the biggest complaints out here. Customers have said they would come in and it was like no one wanted to wait on them," City Manager Steve Horton told employees Friday. "Treat everyone fairly, which means treating them like you want to be treated, and have a smile on your face...We want to build business out here and the best way to do that is to be friendly."

Even though the airport employees are temporary workers at this time, Passariello said they represent the city.

The city council approved a revised airport budget last week that calls for the city to lose about $200,000 operating the airport this fiscal year. Expenses are projected at $507,840, with revenues at $300,000, though some of the expenses are one-time purchases. City leaders hope an improved airport will attract more tenants and visitors, leading to increased fuel sales.

"We want to open and be accessible to the public, they are the owners of the airport. We want the airport to make money. We don't want it to be a drain on the city," he said.

One of the city’s first steps was to lower the price of aviation fuel. The prices for AvGas fuel were lowered by more than 90 cents, to $4.63 a gallon for full-service and $4.36 for self-service. Jet A fuel prices are $4.35 a gallon for full service and $3.95 for self-service. Airport Manager Rusty Anglin said full-service is used by 60 to 70 percent of customers.

Part-time employee John Queen said the city has been selling 6,000 gallons of fuel per day, the highest amounts he’s seen since he began working at the airport under its former private operator, Dixie Jet Services.

Passariello said he wanted the employees to be more proactive in offering to check customer’s airplane oil levels and clean their windows. He also asked them to attend airport events and to be involved in the Covington aviation community. Anglin said the city is buying a red carpet that will be brought out when any customer lands.

Transportation Manager Billy Skinner also told the employees to familiarize themselves with restaurants, other business and industries in Covington, so they can answer visitor’s questions and offer suggestions on where to go for food or goods. Passariello said he is working with the local chamber of commerce to do a training course along these lines. He said he wants the airport’s image to be changed.

"If you want to have a good experience come here, not like it is now where people say stay away from Covington," he said.

Horton said the employees’ efforts will set the airport up for greater success once the city builds a new terminal and hangars on the southeast side of the airport.