Despite steep fee increases for private aircraft, Augusta Regional Airport’s revenue decreased slightly during Masters Week from the year before.
Revenue for general aviation operations was $1.2 million, down 2.7 percent.
The change was caused by a new reservation system that limited the number of planes that could park at Augusta Regional and forced them to use three other regional airports, Augusta Regional officials said.
From April 7 to April 15, aircraft operations decreased 9 percent from 2012 to 2,047 takeoffs and landings.
Including Daniel Field, Thomson-McDuffie Regional and Aiken Municipal airports, operations increased 14 percent overall, for a total of 5,079.
Revenue from prepaid parking, landing and ramp fees was $509,731 through May 23, with some additional revenue not yet collected. Jet fuel sales were $682,794.
Daily ramp fees at Augusta Regional ranged from $60 for a small aircraft up to 4,000 pounds to $1,200 for the largest jet, up to 100,000 pounds. Operators had the option of reserving a spot for the entire week for between $600 and $12,000, or paying between $30 and $600 to depart within one hour of landing.
The higher ramp fees were comparable with those for airports serving other major sporting events, including the Daytona 500 and Kentucky Derby, where daily fees range from $1,085 to $1,575 for the largest aircraft, said Ken Hinkle, the deputy director of airport services at Augusta Regional.
Hinkle said the fees helped cover airport expenses for Masters Week. Increases were needed to offset the lower number of aircraft.
For the past several years, heavy traffic into Augusta Regional caused the the Federal Aviation Administration to issue ground stops, or prohibitions on landing or taking off. Aircraft en route were diverted to nearby general aviation airports.
“We had no ground delays nationwide for the first time anybody can remember,” said Augusta Regional Executive Director Gary LeTellier. He said the revenue decrease was worth the added safety and convenience of less traffic.
The higher fees upset some pilots of small planes, but large corporations were not concerned by them, airport officials said. The airport did not receive any written complaints about the new reservation system and fees.
“We had a lot of people that really want to come to this airport,” Hinkle said.
The National Business Aviation Administration, which helped formulate the new reservation system for Masters Week, said it received no complaints about changes.
“If fees went up, I’m sure that also wasn’t popular among the flying public,” said Dean Snell, the group’s assistant manager for air traffic services. “Typically, if it was a large outcry, we would hear it.”
Other regional airports reported more operations and revenue for the week because Augusta Regional limited the
number of planes it accepted.
“We probably got to handle this year closer to our capacity, whereas other years we weren’t anywhere close to our capacity,” said Mike Laver, the manager of Aiken Aviation, which operates Aiken Municipal Airport.
Operations at Daniel Field increased from 862 in 2012 to 1,219 this year.