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Officials hope to route Bush tourists through Waco airport

Feb. 14, 2001

President's ranch may draw dozens of guests

By BJ GOERGEN

Staff writer

During the campaign season, President George W. Bush flew into the Waco Regional Airport almost every weekend. Bush was then driven to his Crawford ranch, about 20 miles outside of Waco, to conduct meetings and rest in between campaign appearances. The Waco airport now is making plans for Bush's trips to Crawford during his presidency.

Bush flew a Boeing 757 during the campaign, which is the largest plane the Waco airport can accommodate. Although the current Air Force One is a Boeing 747, Bush is expected to fly a smaller plane when flying into Waco, said Jimmie Hanes Jr., director of aviation services for the airport.

'I estimate President Bush will visit his ranch six to eight times per year,' Hanes said. 'Bush feels comfortable coming here, and the Secret Service feel comfortable coming here.'

Hanes predicts tourism will increase because of Waco's close proximity to Crawford. His goal is to route those tourists through the Waco airport.

'Right now we are getting about 30 percent of the people flying out of this area,' Hanes said. 'The rest are going to Dallas, Austin and Killeen.'

Hanes said that he constantly looks for ways to improve travelers' experiences. Continental Airlines and American Airlines currently offer flights out of Waco to Houston and Dallas. In order to increase competition and lower costs, Hanes has solicited Delta Airlines and AirTran to bring their services to Waco. Although he doesn't expect either airline to accept his offer immediately, Hanes continues to look for ways to upgrade the Waco airport.

'There are two things that travelers look at -- cost and service,' Hanes said. 'While we can't control cost, we can offer great services.'

The Waco airport currently offers free parking and recently added the Aerodrome Café. The café was a part of recent renovations that increased the square footage of the airport and gave the inside a new look.

Hanes is also working with the city of Waco to offer concierge service to travelers beginning in April. A group of eight Baylor students, who are studying marketing in the Hankamer School of Business, are working with Hanes to develop a marketing strategy for the Waco airport.

'I think this will really help the city of Waco, and it's a good experience for students,' said Nathan Cox, a Colleyville junior who is participating in the program.

To find out more information about the Waco airport, go to www.waco-texas.com.

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