Monday, February 19, 2018

Augusta Regional (KAGS) sets new record for number of passengers using airport last year

Augusta Regional Airport broke a record for passengers in 2017, surpassing the number it reached in 2015 by nearly 30,000, the airport announced Monday.

More than 580,000 went through the airport last year, an increase of 5.18 percent over 2016, according to numbers provided by the airport. There have been increases nationally in the number of people flying so it is in line with that but it is also from people in the area using it instead of driving to alternatives, said Herbert Judon Jr., the airport’s executive director.

“People are realizing that the airport is a regional asset and instead of driving to other places are using our airport more frequently,” he said. Sometimes people go elsewhere because of a perception that flights out of Augusta are more expensive but often that is not true, Judon said.

“What we have urged people to do is to check,” he said. “Sometimes the flights are more expensive out of this market but sometimes they are not so it is important that people go and check and compare.” The airport Web site has a tool to help comparison shop flights, Judon said. Even if there is a price difference, “people look at the cost/benefit of driving two hours and some of the other challenges they may have and realize that small dollar amount still may be worth using the local airport,” he said.

Part of what is driving the increase is also more capacity among the airport’s two carriers, Delta Airlines and American Airlines, Judon said. The first flight for Delta in the morning is typically a McDonnell Douglas MD-88, which Delta lists with a seat capacity of 149, and those jets may make multiple trips to Augusta throughout the day, he said. American is phasing out its propeller planes “so you’ll see more jets of various sizes, 50, 70 and 90-seat jets that we’ll see from American as well,” Judon said.

The relationship between the airport and its passengers is “reciprocal,” Judon said: the more people use the airport, the more services and destinations it can offer. Increased demand could help the airport in its push to re-establish the direct flights to Washington, D.C. that it lost a couple of years ago during the merger of American and US Airways, he said.

“We’re pushing very hard for that and we are working with the airlines as well as some of the Washington airports to try to get that service back again,” Judon said. The airport is talking not only to its existing carriers but others as well, he said.

“We’re talking to all of them,” Judon said. “It’s an important service for us.The more that we can show demand from this market to that market, the more that the airlines will take heed.”

The move of U.S. Army Cyber Command to Fort Gordon in coming years could aid that as well, he said.

“The Army Cyber Command and other related-type businesses will definitely reflect very positively on us,” Judon said.

While the 2016 numbers had been basically flat compared to 2015, the increase last year is a sign of better things to come, he said.

“Things are definitely trending in the right direction,” Judon said. “We feel like the growth in our region, with cyber and some of the other major industries, is going to just continue to move us in the right direction.”

Original article can be found here ➤

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