Augusta Regional Airport to run American Eagle's ticket counter for the first year

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Mar. 25--Augusta Regional Airport soon will hire several employees as part of its agreement with American Airlines that helped lure affiliate American Eagle to fly into Augusta.

Two full-time supervisor and four part-time ticketing and customer support positions will be created, airport officials said today.

The jobs will be temporary. After a year, American Eagle could choose to handle those functions itself or hire a third-party to do so.

As part of its incentives for American, Augusta Regional will waive landing and terminal rental fees for the first 12 months of the carrier's operations. The airport also will handle ramp services and passenger processing at no charge during the year.

The airport made the deal to help defray start-up costs for American Eagle, which will operate two direct flights daily from Augusta to Dallas, said Diane Johnston, director of marketing for the airport.

The biggest obstacle a new carrier faces is breaking into a market that is loyal to the two current carriers, Delta and US Airways, Johnston explained.

"It takes a new airline time to break through that," she said.

Hiring the temporary employees is estimated to cost $65,000 for the rest of 2010 and $105,000 for the entire 12-month period, said Gary LeTellier, Augusta Regional Airport executive director.

LeTellier said he expects those expenses to be offset by additional fuel fees, which Augusta Regional did not waive. The airport charges fees by the gallon when it uses its trucks and employees to help aircraft refuel.

Delta and US Airways do not currently use Augusta Regional employees for ground services and ticketing.

"The more we looked at it the more we felt like it's a tremendous opportunity for us to get into a new line of business," LeTellier told Augusta Aviation Commission members today.

American Eagle is slated to start its nonstop flights June 10, so the airport needs to act quickly in hiring, Johnston said. Those selected will be flown to Dallas for three to four weeks of training by American Airlines.

Augusta Regional will use a staffing agency for the hiring, Johnston said.

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