Saturday, April 05, 2014

Augusta, Georgia: Airports prepare for influx of travelers during Masters Week

Augusta-area airports have scheduled extra commercial flights and hired additional staff to accommodate thousands of additional travelers flying into the city during its biggest tourist week of the year.

The Masters Tournament brings more than 10,000 additional passengers departing Augusta Regional Airport, according to passenger data provided by the airport. In addition to normal daily connecting flights to Atlanta and Charlotte, direct flights are scheduled to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

“Pretty much all of our aircraft are upsized as well to accommodate more passengers,” said Lauren Smith, Augusta Regional’s communications manager. “(The Transportation Security Administration) and the Marshal’s Office will bring extra hands on deck for the increased number of passengers we have coming through.”

Delta and US Airways service Augusta Regional Airport. In 2013, more than 535,000 passengers flew through the airport. April accounted for 60,000 of its yearly travelers.

Augusta’s general aviation airports also prepare for an influx of private aircraft carrying guests for Masters Week. For the second year, Augusta Regional, Daniel Field, Thomson-McDuffie Regional and Aiken Municipal airports are jointly coordinating flight slots and parking reservations.

“The four airports are working together to make sure the airspace is not converged on at one time,” said Becky Shealy, the marketing manager for Augusta Aviation, the operator of Daniel Field.

Pilots must reserve a landing time on an online booking system used for the first time this year. The online system is intended to eliminate double-booking and prevent overcrowding of aircraft parking areas, which have filled to capacity in previous years, causing pilots to redirect aircraft to other airports.

Masters Week is the only time of year that Daniel Field has an FAA-controlled air traffic tower, Shealy said. More than 300 reservations have been made for the small airfield, with more expected.

At Augusta Regional’s general aviation terminal, traffic picked up last week with early arrivals for the Masters, Smith said. Heavy traffic begins Tuesday, continuing through Monday, when the last visitors depart.