SW Georgia Regional Airport considers second carrier - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

SW Georgia Regional Airport considers second carrier

January 23, 2006

Albany- Can you get to the world from Albany? Maybe, but you have to go through Atlanta first. Southwest Georgia Regional Airport officials hope to give you more air travel options and maybe save you a little on the price of your ticket.

The airport has a half million dollar grant to lure a second air carrier to Albany. Airport officials hope the business community will help raise the $150,000 they need in matching funds and now a consultant has been brought it to discuss the options which include, Charlotte, Tampa, Memphis, and Cincinnati as possible destinations.

Danny Jones works through the Department of Defense. It's a job that takes him from Albany all over the United States.

"Five, six flights a week. This trip I'm going to New York, from New York down to Washington D.C. then from there to Richmond Virginia, then back to Atlanta to here," said Danny Jones, Tailored Logistics.

Right now, Jones' only option from Albany is Atlanta, but a grant for a half million dollars has Albany aiming high.

"What we're shooting for is a commuter of a larger legacy carrier. A legacy carrier is someone like Delta, Northwest, United, American," said Yvette Aehle, Airport Director.

Unfortunately now's not a good time to attract an airline, so while they're grounded, Albany's preparing to launch their plan.

"I believe it's feasible as industry conditions improve, right now just about all the airlines are flat on their back, but hopefully over the next 12 to 24 months we can be successful at recruiting a carrier," said Mike Mooney, Sr. V.P. The Boyd Group.

Possibilities include USAirways to Charlotte, Northwest to Memphis, Continental to Tampa and Delta to Cincinnati, but Charlotte is most viable. The addition of a new airline wouldn't lower prices drastically or immediately.

"Ninety nine dollars, no we'll never see $99.00 airfare out of Albany, that's just the way airline economics works," said Aehle.

Another carrier would simply give travelers another option and maybe a slight price break.

"Today's a good example, the flight leaves at 5:30, we're not going to get out of here until after six sometime, so that puts me into JFK somewhere around 10:30, 11:00," said Jones.

While the challenge is big, it's something airport officials feel the city needs to do to help grow southwest Georgia.

"It's a huge challenge, it's a huge challenge especially for markets like us, all the other small communities like us are competing for the same air carriers and all would love to have the service we have in Albany," said Aehle.

Unfortunately Albany will likely never get a low cost carrier like AirTran because Albany doesn't have enough passenger service to support a low cost carrier.

Low cost carriers fly larger aircraft and require nearly nine times the number of passengers that currently fly out of Albany. Consultants don't expect to be able to pitch their offer to an airline until the end of 2006.

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