It took less than six months for commercial air service in Hickory to depart again.
Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday that it plans to stop its jet service between Hickory and Atlanta on Nov. 30.
The flights, which former Delta subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines operates three times per day, are the Catawba Valley's only commercial flights. When they began May 1, city and economic development officials hoped the flights would help draw businesses and business travelers to the city after a nearly three-year lull in commercial service.
Until recently, the flights averaged about 40 percent capacity, and ASA warned in August that the service was in jeopardy unless passenger numbers rose. Although the numbers went up this month, said City Manager Mick Berry, it wasn't enough to save the service.
High fuel costs and Delta's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month didn't help, Berry said. Those were the three reasons Delta officials cited when they called the city Friday to give the news, he said.
"It's disappointing," Mayor Rudy Wright said Tuesday. "But we will continue to pursue other carriers and continue to try to maximize this great resource we have, the airport."
Wright cited a city-commissioned study in August that concluded that 80 percent of frequent fliers in the Hickory area knew about the Delta service, and that 90 percent of those who had used it were satisfied with it.
"We did our part. We made travelers aware of the service," Wright said. "It was up to Delta and the fliers to get together and get the tickets sold. In a nutshell, that's where the frustration is, because that didn't happen."
City and economic development officials will begin searching for a replacement soon, Wright said.
"We would only want to partner with someone if we thought their fare model would work here," he said. "But we certainly would consider anything any airline would offer, as long as it had a chance to work."
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