Jacksonville hosts Airline Summit 2009; network planners get chance to see what destination has to offer

anna.aero editor, Ralph Anker, is made to feel extra special at TPC Sawgrass along with the other Airline Summit delegates invited by Jacksonville Aviation Authority.

Last week anna.aero was delighted to be an invited guest at the inaugural Airline Summit, organised and hosted by Jacksonville Aviation Authority. From a network planning perspective idea behind the event was to invite airline route planners from all the major US airlines to come and actually experience what Jacksonville and the surrounding region in Northeast Florida had to offer visitors. The airport is served by all the US legacy carriers as well as the country’s top three LCCs; AirTran, jetBlue and Southwest.

As airports compete for new routes, and strive to maintain existing services, the importance of personal experience has a potentially critical role in shaping the decision-making process of key airline executives. This Summit will certainly have made an indelible impression on all those who attended and enjoyed the generous hospitality of the event’s hosts and business partners.

The summiteers: Ralph Anker (Editor, anna.aero), Steve Grossman (JAX CEO), Dominika Kudyba (Consultant, JAX, Evan Berg (Manager, Network Capacity Planning, Southwest) and Mike Doil (Network Management & Planning, Delta) about to tackle the challenges posed on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Only one of the four players would avoid the water at this hole… Men in shorts: Roger Morenc (Director, Revenue Management, AirTran), Jeff Hartz (Manager, Strategic Planning, American Eagle) and Jack Peter (World Golf Hall of Fame) pose with their caddies on the 17th tee at TPC Sawgrass.

Amelia Island, airport tour, river cruise and golf

To provide delegates with plenty of memorable experiences the airport authority gave only a relatively short presentation about the city, the region, the range of businesses that had recently added jobs in the area as well as highlighting the wide range of leisure options in the region.

After that delegates were driven out to Amelia Island for lunch at the Amelia Island Plantation Hotel. Spread across 1,350 acres the facility includes three golf courses and 23 tennis courts. Next March the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance takes place and will be celebrating its 15th anniversary. This feast of classic cars and racing cars has become a major event in the Florida social calendar and will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Porsche 917’s legendary victories at Daytona and Le Mans.

From Amelia Island the tour headed back to the airport via historic Fernandina. The airport has undergone major terminal developments in recent years and is looking forward to welcoming its first regular international scheduled flights in the not too distant future. Although most of the gates in Concourse A and C (B was recently demolished) are dedicated to particular carriers, a number of gates have been created that can accept flights from any airline.

Downtown reception and river cruise

After the airport tour delegates were taken to the River Club, located on the 34th and 35th floor of the Modis Building in downtown Jacksonville, for a reception. After that a truly splendid dinner was served on the Jacksonville Princess which made its way sedately along the St. Johns river to the strains of Jimmy Buffet.

Once in a lifetime golfing opportunity

While the first day was hugely enjoyable the second day offered delegates a truly unique experience. Nearby TPC Sawgrass is home to what is considered by many golfers to be the unofficial fifth major, The Players tournament held each May. Won by Europeans in each of the last two years (Sergio Garcia in 2008 and Henrik Stenson in 2009) the course is considered one of golf’s greatest challenges with its celebrated 17th ‘island’ hole. After a guided tour of the impressive clubhouse by Bill Hughes, General Manager TPC Sawgrass, delegates were provided with their own personal caddies and were allowed to walk the course (golf carts are normally obligatory).

To the accompaniment of the Blue Angels noisily practising some of their manoeuvres, the 18 holes were completed in around five hours under bright Florida sunshine. Several balls were added to the 100,000 that are annually deposited in the water around the 17th green, including three by anna.aero’s editor. Despite this a wonderful time was had by all with Jacksonville Aviation Authority’s CEO Steve Grossman carding a highly respectable 84 and not losing any balls on the 17th.

Image: Steve Grossman (CEO, Jacksonville Aviation Authority), Barbara Halverstadt (Manager, Marketing & Development, Jacksonville Aviation Authority) and Ralph Anker (Editor, anna.aero)
Steve Grossman (CEO, Jacksonville Aviation Authority), Barbara Halverstadt (Manager, Marketing & Development, Jacksonville Aviation Authority) and Ralph Anker (Editor, anna.aero) enjoying the reception for airline delegates at the River Club, on the 34th floor of the Modis tower in downtown Jacksonville.


  1. Barbara says:

    AWESOME coverage! We loved having you visit us, Ralph! Tell all your friends about Northeast Florida!

  2. Vanni Gibertini says:

    How nice of you Ralph to give us notice of your Florida adventure… in the face of those of us who are stuck in less enjoyable climates… Anyway, certainly informative!

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