Throughout all of this, city officials, and most notably Ellis, have pushed to increase the routes offered at the Macon airport. For many years, service to Atlanta has been the only option. Officials have particularly hoped to add a route to Washington, D.C., and, though numerous efforts have failed, the most recent one holds promise.
The City Council approved a contract last month with Aviation Advantage to start daily service to Dulles International Airport.
It was unclear Monday whether such service would satisfy federal flight requirements for the airport.
Anthony said use of the Atlanta routes has trended up in the past six months or so, but ASA spokeswoman Modolo said she couldn't confirm that and that the airline wouldn't release a monthly breakdown on flight usage. She said service has "been decreasing over the past couple of years," and even if it had seen an uptick more recently, "the numbers in Macon were still below comparable markets in Georgia."
Cherry said he used to be able to book that sort of flight for $50. That was two years ago "and then things started moving up," Cherry said. With Hartsfield-Jackson about an hour and a half drive away from Macon, and Groome Transportation offering round-trip van service to the airport for $54, a $200 airline ticket just isn't in the cards for many people, Cherry said.
The U.S. DOT hadn't received a formal withdrawal notice from ASA as of Monday, said Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the department. Once that comes -- Landers said it was filed Monday -- a 90-day notice clock starts ticking. The department will take bids to continue flights, then make a selection with the hope that a taxpayer subsidy won't be needed, Mosley said in an e-mail to The Telegraph.
The current service is unsubsidized, and if it takes a subsidy to keep routes open there is no set amount set aside for Macon, Mosley said. Nationally, though, the U.S. DOT budgeted to spend $107 million a year on these subsidies, Mosley said.
If necessary, the U.S. DOT could force ASA to continue its Macon service until another plan is in place.
Landers said the decision to cut the flights was based on usage and is not related to Delta's recent emergence from bankruptcy. In an e-mailed news release, he said that later this summer Delta will contact customers who have already booked flights after Oct. 1 to arrange alternative transportation or refunds. Customers wishing to change their reservations can contact Delta Reservations at (800) 221-1212.
Modolo said the 13 counter agents employed at the airport will be offered transfers within the company when Macon flight service is suspended.
To contact writer Travis Fain, call (478) 744-4213.
To see more of The Macon Telegraph, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.macon.com Copyright (c) 2007, The Macon Telegraph, Ga. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.
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