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Augusta-area airports close out high-volume Masters Week

Monday, April 9, 2012 6:51 PM
Last updated 8:39 PM
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Masters Week ramps up the volume of customers for restaurants and hotels, and the airports are no different.

Officials at Daniel Field airport, Augusta Regional Airport, Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport and Aiken Municipal Airport agreed that this year’s tournament week brought high traffic.

Exact numbers won’t be available for several weeks, but Becky Shealy, Daniel Field’s vice president for business development, said this year’s numbers should be high.

Wednesday seemed to be the busiest day of Masters Week, Shealy said, followed by Friday, when more than 100 airplanes parked at Daniel Field.

The high volume of traffic through regional airports is notable this year, she said, because Masters Sunday coincided with Easter.

“Anytime Masters falls on Holy Week, that Sunday we’re a little slower,” she said. “Wednesday through Friday, though, were incredible.”

Keith Bounds, the manager for the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport, said his airport had great traffic numbers this year but definitely saw an impact from the Easter weekend.

“It was still a great week, but we never really ran out,” he said. “We’re assuming that’s because of the Easter holiday.”

Masters Week brought in a significant amount of extra traffic at Aiken Municipal Airport, said Mike Laver, the owner of Aiken Aviation Enterprises Inc., which operates the airport.

“We believe that we had twice as many airplanes as last year,” Laver said. “I think people are traveling more again in corporate jets. There was a period on Friday where we had airplanes landing every few minutes.”

At one point, Laver said he counted 50 jets parked at Aiken Municipal Airport, not including others that had already come and gone. He is still compiling a final count.

Corporate jet travel has been rebounding in the past few years, after travel “totally deteriorated” from 2007 and 2008 with the economic downturn, he said.

He added that he received a call Friday asking whether Aiken had available space because airports in Augusta and Thomson had reached their parking capacities.

He also attributes the increase in traffic to facilities and services recently added to Aiken Municipal Airport. In January, an instrument landing system was installed, and a new lighting system was completed a week before the tournament, he said.

Augusta Regional Airport’s communications manager, Lauren Smith, said there were no major delays, and airport officials expected to see many travelers leave Augusta through Monday and into Tuesday.

“We still consider it a Masters travel day,” she said.


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