Originally created 07/11/01

Airport campaign urges residents to try Augusta



Augusta Regional Airport officials are hoping to convince locals that cheaper fares in Atlanta aren't always worth the 2 1/2 -hour drive.

Local leaders are packaging Augusta Regional as the sensible choice now that most advance-purchase fares between the cities vary by $100 or less.

"We're not going to win in every case," said airport Marketing Director David Dorminey, commenting on the ticket-cost issue. "We're just not as bad as the public thinks we are."

Mr. Dorminey and other local officials Tuesday unveiled what will be the second phase of the "Seize the Sky" campaign, a media blitz designed to discourage Augusta travelers from using other airports, namely Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

"What's your time worth?" asks one of several print media ads developed by marketing officials.

Other advertisements in the campaign urge consumers to check fares out of Augusta instead of automatically booking flights out of Atlanta on the assumption that ticket prices will be much cheaper.

Increased use at Augusta Regional creates higher passenger loads that allow airlines to offer economical service and, in turn, lower fares. But leaders say that lowering fares through increased competition is the No. 1 goal.

Community leaders are actively seeking new carriers, Continental Airlines being the most heavily courted, but the process has been slow.

"Augusta is a relative newcomer in the air service game," said Marcie Wilhelmi, Augusta Aviation Commission chairwoman.

Augusta Regional plans to take out newspaper ads that compare its fares to those offered in Atlanta and Columbia.

Airport leaders will also trumpet improved airline service during the past six months, particularly for Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which last year had a reputation for operational miscues on Augusta flights.

ASA's flight cancellations during three of the past six months were still higher than the industry average, but the Delta Air Lines-owned commuter carrier said two of those months were skewed by weather-related cancellations rather than operational miscues.

"Our completion factor has improved dramatically," said Greg Eddy, the marketing director for Delta Connection Carriers, which coordinates service with ASA, Comair and other Delta subsidiaries.

ASA recently added another daily flight in Augusta, bringing the total number of Augusta-to-Atlanta flights to 10.

Comair canceled its Augusta-to-Cincinnati service this spring because of a pilots strike, which has since been resolved. Mr. Eddy declined to comment on when, or if, Comair would resume the service in Augusta.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or bized@augustachronicle.com.