Macon won a $500,000 federal grant and will use it to add another air route at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, potentially to Washington, D.C., Mayor Jack Ellis said Friday.
The grant can be used to defray start-up and other costs to bring in a new airline - or help establish the new route for the current one - and Washington is "priority one," Ellis said Friday.
"If it's the current airline, fine," Ellis said. "If it's a new airline, OK."
The airport's current carrier, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, offers three flights to and three flights from Atlanta daily, but the airport doesn't serve other cities, aviation director George Brown said.
Delta Air Lines Inc., which owns ASA, has announced plans to sell the airline, though a spokesman said the sale would not affect existing flights.
The grant is key, Ellis said, because for years the city has tried to attract another airline.
"Before we were going empty-handed ... while other communities were showing up with checks," Ellis said.
Grant documents are due to the Federal Aviation Administration by Sept. 8 and Ellis said the city will meet that deadline. The grant requires a $60,000 match, and Ellis said there's enough money in the airport's budget to cover it.
Ellis thanked the city's lobbyist and congressional delegation Friday and said Macon was the only Georgia city to receive the grant this year, showing that the FAA agrees with the city that Macon needs another route.
There's no timetable for new flights, but Ellis said the city will move quickly into negotiations with airlines. He listed Washington as his top priority and Cincinnati as second, based on a survey done several years ago on Middle Georgia ticket purchases.
Brown said the grant is the next step in airport improvements.
The city has spent millions, mostly in federal money, to upgrade
airport facilities over the past few years.
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