BOSTON (CBS) -- With a little assist from Boston College, SATA Airlines has given the flight from Boston to Lisbon, Portugal and the Azores a big lift.
Taking over as CEO of SATA three years ago, Atonio Menezes has revamped the carrier from charter status at Logan Airport to a scheduled carrier operating in Terminal E. Menezes earned a PhD in Economics from Boston College in 2000. He is a native of Portugal.
"Boston is a household name in Portugal, and there is no better place to study," said Menezes in a recent interview in Boston.
The results speak for themselves. In 2010, SATA showed the strongest growth of any new scheduled airline at Logan Airport. The passenger count to and from Portugal and the Azores jumped dramatically. The total last year was 74,419 which was an increase of 21 percent. 2008 and 2009 figures showed small losses for both years due primarily to the recession.
With up to nine scheduled flights a week in the peak summer season, SATA has a number of new marketing initiatives in place.
It's a four-and-a half hour flight from Boston to Portugal. SATA flies new Airbus 310 aircraft with 222 seats in coach and 18 seats in Business Class.
"Boston is critical to our growth for leisure travel and also for business both in Boston and Portugal," added Menezes.
By being a scheduled carrier, it means that SATA can finalize marketing programs as they have done with US Airways to bring passengers to Boston from the northeast to transfer to their airline. They also have good connections in Lisbon to southern Europe in less crowded airports.
Over the last three years, the carrier has initiated a frequent flyer program, a better reservation system for travel agents, more information and ticketing on their website and added smart phone applications. The goal is to stay ahead of the competition.
SATA is just ending a Wines of Portugal sweepstakes with liquor stores in Massachusetts. Unlike other airline promotions, there will be five winners chosen for a one week trip split between Lisbon and the Azores. The airline is also working with several restaurant chefs on a major promotion featuring the seafood of Portugal next fall.
The U.S, sales headquarters for Azores Express and SATA is in Fall River, the center of their ethnic market.
Menezes likes Boston and he'll be here frequently to promote his airline and pay a visit to Boston College.
Bob Weiss' "All Things Travel" reports can be heard weekends on WBZ.
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