Originally created 10/14/02

Airline to commit to service



Continental Express is expected to make its long-awaited announcement today about starting air service in Augusta.

The official announcement is scheduled to come during an afternoon news conference at Augusta Regional Airport, officials said.

Three weeks ago, airline representatives said they intended to begin two daily flights between Augusta and Newark, N.J., starting in March.

Today's announcement is expected to confirm those regional jet flights and to clarify whether the airline has plans to fly to a second hub.

Houston has been mentioned as a possible second destination.

"We really are looking forward to hearing what Continental has to offer to the community," said airport spokeswoman Kathryn Solee. "The community has done a superb job of stepping up to the plate."

For more than two years, the airport has been trying to woo Continental Express, the No. 2 regional airline in the country and regional carrier for Houston-based Continental Airlines.

Last year, the airport led a drive to collect pledges from area travelers and businesses that would be used to purchase tickets on Continental Express if it came to Augusta.

Last month, the airport launched a second campaign to raise more than half a million dollars to cover the airline's station-opening costs.

The airline made an unofficial commitment the day Augusta Regional reached that goal.

Continental Express would bring the number of carriers operating at Augusta Regional to three. Currently, Delta subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines flies to Atlanta and US Airways Express flies to Charlotte, N.C.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.