Originally created 08/24/04

US Airways adds late Charlotte flight



Starting in early September, Augusta passengers will be able to fly to and from Charlotte later in the evening.

US Airways will add one flight per night Monday through Friday between Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and Augusta Regional Airport beginning Sept. 9.

The additions bring the airline's daily arrivals to and departures from the Garden City up to seven each.

"We've been pleased with the overall performance and demand of the service," US Airways spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said in explaining why officials decided to add the pair of flights. "Now we'll have extensive service throughout the course of the day with flights at just about every hour."

Previously, the final flight from Augusta to Charlotte arrived at 7:20 p.m.; the new flight will land an hour and a half later than that.

The last flight originating in Charlotte took off at 8:30 p.m. and landed in Augusta about an hour later.

The new flight will leave Charlotte at 10 p.m. and then land in Augusta at 11, just as the control tower closes for the night.

This may sound troublesome, but air traffic controller Phil Joyner said the later flight will not be problematic because controllers turn over Augusta's airspace to a tower in Hampton, Ga., when they leave.

"We're just not physically present," he said.

"But if we're not here, (the flight crew) uses a Unicom frequency to make an announcement of their position and which runway they'll be landing on, and Atlanta handles it."

And it's not uncommon for controllers to stay a few minutes past 11 p.m. if a plane is about to land, he said, which is what controllers have been doing for an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight that is scheduled to arrive just before 11 at night.

At the past two Augusta Aviation Commission meetings, members discussed concerns about inadequate customer service at the airport at night, which was prompted by Augustan Leo Vazquez's complaints that he was not notified of his wife's canceled flight.

Last month, commissioners considered hiring a designated customer service person for the late hours.

Instead, airlines will now call airport personnel if one of their late flights is delayed or canceled so marshals and the airport customer service employee will be able to answer relatives' and friends' questions, said Airport Director Buster Boshears.

As a backup, he also said a marshal will go to the airlines' ticket counters each night to check on their flights.

"That way, if the airline forgets to call us, we'll know what's going on," Mr. Boshears said.

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