Augusta Regional Airport plans improvements

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After a record-breaking 2010, Augusta Regional Airport officials are hoping big changes will help push the airport's lucky streak into this year.

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Passengers arrive at Augusta Regional from Charlotte, N.C. The airport plans to add 400 parking spaces and incorporate nonstop flights to New York and Washington.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Passengers arrive at Augusta Regional from Charlotte, N.C. The airport plans to add 400 parking spaces and incorporate nonstop flights to New York and Washington.

"As our numbers here continue to grow, we're going to surpass other airlines and other cities," said the airport's director of marketing, Diane Johnston.

"We think we will continue to grow. We're just smoking."

Within a year, airport officials plan to add more than 400 parking spaces, build a restaurant and lounge, and incorporate nonstop flights to New York and Washington, Johnston said.

The changes come after the airport broke a nearly two-decade-old record with nearly a half-million passengers flying through Augusta in 2010.

The airport made a comeback from a low point of 275,723 travelers in 2006 and beat 1992's record of 492,906 travelers.

Johnston said the successful year had a lot to do with airline reliability, which has improved since 2005 when Delta Air Lines carrier Atlantic Southeast canceled 8 percent of flights out of Augusta.

In 2006, airport officials persuaded U.S. Airways to lower fares as an experiment to entice customers, and Delta quickly followed suit.

Throughout those changes many passengers have made the Augusta airport a focal point of their travels.

Shelly Morris, of Thomson, has been traveling through the Augusta airport since the 1970s for business and pleasure.

While running an equestrian vacation agency in the 1990s, Morris would often connect to international flights in Atlanta from Augusta.

On Friday, she munched on a turkey sandwich and a Coca-Cola from the snack bar while waiting for her niece to arrive from Florida. She talked about the convenience of having an airport close to her home.

"With those international flights, when you get home you're so tired and you don't want to drive all that way home from Atlanta," Morris said.

Friday was one of hundreds of trips to the airport that Morris has made over the years, but a first for a group of glammed-out Los Angeles guys.

Rock band Adler's Appetite touched down in Augusta from Los Angeles on Friday for its show at Sky City.

Though the group is used to flying on jets and riding on tour buses, bassist Chip Z'Nuff said there are benefits to flying through smaller airports.

"All of our stuff showed up, so that's a plus," he said. "Delta has dealt Chip Z'Nuff a blow in the past, so this is good."

The band landed with boxes of instruments and rock gear and arrived in time for a radio interview and album-signing before their show.

They won't be through the Augusta airport again, however, because they planned to drive to Atlanta for a show today and begin a one-month European tour Monday. It will be back to the massive airports and far from the low-key setting of Augusta Regional.

Z'Nuff has big plans.

"In Rome, the first thing I'm doing is getting off the plane and going to the Vatican to get blessed by the father," he said.

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jamesnewsome 01/22/11 - 10:25 am
Next week I'm flying out of

Next week I'm flying out of Augusta for the first time since 2006 when my return flight on a Friday afternoon through Atlanta was cancelled. I vowed to never fly out of Augusta until carriers other than Delta serviced the airport. My flight next week is on AA and completely bypasses Atlanta.

Congratulations to the airport authority for turning around the fortunes of this facility. It just proves the point that good customer service will result in good business, and poor customer service will result in a loss of business.

During my 4 year boycott of the Augusta airport I've literally told hundreds of people about my bad experience. I hope to soon be sharing positive comments about the Augusta Regional Airport in the future.

countyman 01/22/11 - 11:19 am
The airport is really on a

The airport is really on a huge roll since the year 2009... The airport recieved a $13 million grant from the FAA in September 2010.. The largest amount of federal funds ever given to the airport since the Airport Improvement Program begain in 1982.. Other positive things at the airport include 440 new parking spaces, new valet parking, record year for the number of passengers, and $10.5 million in airport projects.

dailychroniclereader1 01/22/11 - 01:08 pm
Augusta to Charlotte to

Augusta to Charlotte to London on USAirways, $868
Augusta to Atlanta to London on Delta, $1011
Drive to Atlanta and take the same Delta plane to London, $1344
I checked the numbers yesterday. So, if you are one of the few that insist on driving to Atlanta, paying those incredible parking fees, shuttling to the terminal on a bus, standing in long lines to get checked in at the ticket counter, standing in long security lines, getting on a little train to get to your terminal, AND paying more for it...then go right ahead. More room for us sensible people at Augusta Regional.

follower 01/22/11 - 03:10 pm
Daily, the prices fluctuate

Daily, the prices fluctuate wildly. When it's within $150 or so to use Augusta, I do. When it's over that, and especially with more than one person flying, a drive to Atlanta or Charlotte is not that bad.

I prefer traveling out of Augusta, but as "jamesnewsome" pointed out, in the past, the difference in price was irrelevant when reliability was measured. No question, it is much better. Keep up the good work.

momma mia
momma mia 01/22/11 - 04:58 pm
I always fly out of Augusta,

I always fly out of Augusta, because I hate Atlanta and Charlotte and will not drive to either city if I can possibly help it!! I always fly US Air, too, and have not had any flight delays in many years.

Clux99 01/22/11 - 05:23 pm
When given preference, I

When given preference, I choose to use Augusta simply because I encounter far fewer idiot drivers on my 20 minute drive to AGS than I do on my several hour drive to Atlanta...just my 2 cents

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