ASA Postpones Adding Third Flight to Macon Airport, Ga.

Because a series of delays have prevented Middle Georgia Regional Airport from upgrading its security system, Atlantic Southeast Airlines is backing away from a plan that would have added another flight from Macon beginning Wednesday.

The federal Transportation Security Agency in late March was expected to review the airport's security, but because certain door-locking mechanisms were not delivered on time, the date was pushed back to Monday. George Brown, Macon's aviation director, Thursday said the inspection is to take place "the middle of next week, possibly Wednesday."

"We're in the final stages of programming the software, so the (monitoring and computer) systems can talk to each other," Brown said.

ASA spokeswoman Gina Pesko said Thursday the airline, which currently offers two flights out of Macon daily, has postponed plans for the third flight through the end of April.

She said if TSA gives the nod of approval before then, the airline would work to reinstate the flight.

Right now, ASA officials are contacting customers who purchased tickets for the additional flight and are trying to put them on another flight.

"At this point, we're at the mercy of (federal agency) TSA," she said.

At the end of January, ASA cut daily service from five flights to two because the airport did not meet security qualifications set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The city needed to install a series of updated monitoring systems and advanced security measures, including more fencing, combination and cyber locks, closed-circuit cameras and card readers.

ASA had planned to add an additional round-trip flight to Atlanta on April 13, pending TSA approval that the security has been upgraded.

That flight, which can carry 66 passengers, would depart Macon at 9:15 a.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 10 a.m. It would leave Atlanta at 9:30 p.m. and return to Macon at 10:10 p.m.

Once the needed security measures are put in place, the airport will regain its Class III status, meaning it can increase the number of flights in and out of the airport as well as the size of the planes.

Macon currently holds a Class IV status and is not permitted to handle airplanes with more than 60 seats.

Brown said if TSA officials approve the new system, which he expects to happen, the airport will become a Class III "servicing" airport.

Then, once the paperwork is certified in Washington, the airport will be a "certified" Class III operation. As long as the airport gets TSA approval, it can service the larger planes.

Brown said he is uncertain how long Washington officials would take to stamp the paperwork.

Telegraph staff writer Jake Jacobs contributed to this report.

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