Plane talk

New airport director offers advice and insight to ensure a turbulent-free future.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Aviation has always held a special place in Kim Jones’ heart. Whether that long-held drive to see the world began as a teenager when she joined a junior ROTC/Air Force chapter, or an early membership in the Civil Air Patrol, Jones couldn’t have found a more perfect career in an industry she’s always loved.

In 2004, Jones accepted a job as director of finance and administration at Dane County Regional Airport (DCRA), resulting in her move to Madison, and last year, after former director Brad Livingston retired, the Dane County Board named her as his successor.

The airport’s operations are under her watch now, and in a recent interview we learned more about her responsibilities and past and future plans.

IB: Is it unusual for a woman to lead a commercial airport in the U.S.?
For years there were a lot of experienced men in these roles who had spent time in the military, but we’re seeing a turnaround now. LAX (Los Angeles) is run by a woman, as is Denver, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Many came up through the administration and finance side, as I did.

IB: How did you get into airport management? Are you a pilot?
I am not a pilot. I graduated from Drake University in Des Moines with a degree in accounting and administration and worked for a nonprofit for about 10 years, but I loved airports and was fortunate to land a job at the Des Moines airport.

IB: What’s new at DCRA these days?
We’ve seen unprecedented growth! We now serve over 2 million travelers a year, and we’re studying expansion plans and parking demands. Sixty percent of our passengers are business travelers.

IB: Due to Epic?
I’d rather not single out any individual company because so many companies support us. I thank them all for that!

IB: The airport now offers 19 nonstop destinations, including a daily flight to Los Angeles that just launched March 31. What else is on your docket?
We’ll always offer seasonal flights in the winter, but we’d like to offer summer seasonal flights, as well.

IB: Who determines routes and plane size?
The airlines. They constantly research flight information and may determine that Madison may be better off with two 100-seaters to a particular destination versus three 70-seaters, for example. It’s not up to us. In fact, our role is to facilitate services for our passengers, from the airlines to rental car companies to concessions.

IB: When determining routes, is it competitive between airports?
We all want flights, but we don’t compete with one another. In fact, negotiating with the airlines is rare. We get in front of route planners as much as possible, so if we know, for example, that this community wants to see flights to Boston, Seattle, or Houston, we pitch them all the time. They either say yes or no.



IB: Any news on an airport hotel?
We’d love a hotel here, but hotel brands often have their own rules in terms of where they locate in relation to one another. Lately we’ve seen some diversification in that, so we’re hopeful.

IB: How is DCRA funded?
Many smaller airports are supported by local property taxes. We are not. We’re self-sufficient with the community’s support and I’m very proud that we can sustain that.

IB: What should passengers know?
That routes are not guaranteed! A community has to use them or lose them. If an airline doesn’t get the returns they expect, chances are they could leave sooner than we’d like. That’s why our business travelers are so critical.

IB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We have a world-class airport here that compares to any airport in terms of facilities, security, routes, and comfortable seating. Now, with our nonstop [domestic] flights, a person can connect to destinations around the world with just one stop.

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