AA's new terminal provides backdrop for Big Apple campaign

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In a joint media event Aug. 29, American Airlines officially opened its $1.3 billion terminal at New York's Kennedy Airport, and the city of New York rolled out a marketing and advertising campaign, called "Just Ask the Locals," designed to make visitors feel more welcome in the Big Apple.

There is an immediate connection between the two events: Some of the city's advertising will be seen throughout the AA terminal through the end of this year. American donated $4.5 million worth of advertising space because, according to Gerard Arpey, American's chairman, president and CEO, the line is "happy" to support Mayor Michael Bloomberg's goal of 50 million visitors by 2015.

The "Just Ask the Locals" campaign, created by NYC & Company, the city's official tourism marketing organization, is designed to make visitors feel more welcome and to thank them for coming to town.

Mayor Bloomberg noted that the Readers Digest last year tapped New York City as the world's most courteous city, contrary to the impressions created by late-night comedians, he said. However, "not enough people know about that."

Therefore, NYC & Company lined up a number of resident celebrities -- Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore among them -- who were willing to appear in ads and offer personal advice and tips on visiting New York. Maps of walking tours suggested by the celebrities and cards highlighting their insider tips on navigating the city will be distributed to travelers at the airport and in hotels. Videos will be shown in taxis that are equipped.

The celebrities' taped advice can be heard by dialing 311 in New York or (212) NEW-YORK; additional tips are on offer at www.nycvisit.com.

Compared with "Just Ask the Locals," American's project was much more expensive and much longer in the making -- eight years -- but the carrier is just as concerned about increasing traffic and about impressions prospective travelers may have of New York or the U.S.

Arpey said the carrier's main objective when expanding its space at Kennedy was "customer-oriented. This forms the first impression that many have of America, New York City and the U.S."

The sleek, modern terminal -- which is twice the size of Yankee Stadium -- is the biggest new thing to happen at Kennedy Airport in years. In Bloomberg's words, "It's a highlight of Port Authority's revival."

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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