Originally created 05/19/00

Airline garners reaction



Having absorbed the initial shock of Delta Air Lines' decision to leave Augusta, many airport officials and community leaders have started to ask themselves one question: What do we do now?

Augusta Mayor Bob Young wrote a letter to US Airways, expressing Augusta's appreciation of the airline's current service and inquiring into the possibility of additional service now that Delta is pulling out.

David Dorminey, marketing director for Augusta Regional Airport,plans to contact Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Comair to find out what can be done to help those airlines grow and prosper.

The Air Service Task Force has asked to meet with the Augusta Aviation Commission next week to begin a joint effort at luring additional airlines to Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field.

All this happened just a day after Delta executives announced their jets no longer would be flying to the Garden City.

Two Delta subsidiaries - Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Comair - will replace Delta's jets with turbo prop service to Atlanta and new regional jet service to Cincinnati. The changes will go into effect Dec. 1.

Although city officials admit the absence of Delta's corporate image will have a negative effect on the city's marketing efforts, the new daily flights to Cincinnati - Delta's second-largest hub after Atlanta - will have a positive effect.

Julian Miller, chairman of the task force and general manager of The Augusta Chronicle, said now is the time to look at the positive aspects of Delta's changes.

"This is a wake-up call," Mr. Miller said. "Let's see if we can pull together and work together. We think this gives us a good opportunity to go back to all the airlines we've been talking to and see what we can do to bring in new service now that Delta's leaving.

"To be successful, we need everybody - the Air Service Task Force, the aviation commission, the chamber and the Augusta Commission - working together," he said.

Mr. Young said he placed a call to the mayor of Cincinnati on Thursday with the hope of establishing a relationship where the two cities can help market and improve themselves. Mr. Young said he encouraged Augusta's convention and visitors bureau and the chamber of commerce to contact their Cincinnati counterparts and see what kind of cross-promotional efforts can be created.

Tim Weegar, interim director of Augusta Regional Airport, said Cincinnati's connections to the Midwest and Chicago, one of Augusta's top destinations, will give air travelers more choices for air travel.

"If Augusta responds well to this new Cincinnati service, Delta will give serious consideration to other regional jet nonstop markets from Augusta, such as New York and Washington, D.C.," Mr. Weegar said.

Employees at Procter & Gamble's Augusta manufacturing plant are excited about the flights to Cincinnati; the company's corporate headquarters are located there.

"Direct service to our corporate headquarters will be good for our business as well as a time saver for Procter & Gamble travelers to and from Cincinnati," said Angie Koszegi, a spokeswoman for the company's Augusta office. "Although we would like to have more options than two flight times per day, this is truly a step in the right direction."

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.