Originally created 07/17/04

City could get Independence



The nation's newest low-cost carrier may have said no to Augusta earlier this year, but officials with Independence Air said the Garden City is still in the running for future service.

"It's a city that continues to be under consideration," said Rick DeLisi, the director of Corporate Communication for Independence.

So much so that Independence was the airline that visited Augusta during Masters Week this year, Augusta Regional Airport Director Buster Boshears said.

"They indicated we would be looked at," Mr. Boshears said, explaining that the Masters invitation was merely a first step.

For the past several years, Augusta has invited an airline during the golf tournament as a way of courting the carrier to start up locally.

For example, Continental Airlines was invited to town in 2002 and subsequently began offering service to and from Augusta 16 months ago.

Mr. DeLisi said he could not elaborate on Augusta's chances and how the visit to Augusta Regional by Independence's market development team went other than to say Augusta remains a contender.

One thing is for sure: If Independence does come to Augusta, it will not be for at least a few months or even a year or two when the airline expands. Independence is in the midst of the largest launch ever undertaken by an airline.

Mr. DeLisi said that by Sept. 1, Independence will offer service in 35 markets. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was in the first group of airports to begin service by Independence Air in mid-June. Columbia began offering service June 23, and Savannah is slated to start service August 1.

Mr. DeLisi said Augusta's chances of securing Independence are not hampered by the airport's proximity to those three cities.

"One of Independence's initiatives is creating opportunities for people to use their own local airports," he said. "We're not adversive to bringing service to airports in the same proximity as airports that have service now."

One of the main factors Mr. DeLisi said his airline examines when choosing hubs is whether the airport can support at least five or six Independence flights a day.

"It just doesn't make sense for us to open up in a market where we could only run two or three flights out each day," he said. "We want to create maximum utilization."

Flying high

Cities that already have launched Independence Air service: Washington, D.C.; Newark, N.J.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Boston;Atlanta; White Plains, N.Y.; Portland, Maine; Norfolk, Va.; Columbia; Syracuse, N.Y.; Nashville, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla.Cities scheduled to begin service by Sept. 1:Lansing, Mich.; Burlington, Vt.; Charleston, S.C.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Rochester, N.Y.; Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Charleston, W.Va.; Manchester, N.H.; Albany, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis; Hartford, Conn.; Pittsburgh; Providence, R.I.; Detroit; Louisville, Ky.; Stewart/Newburgh, N.Y.

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.