Delta Airlines is adding a fourth daily flight at Golden Triangle Regional Airport, announced Executive Director Mike Hainsey on Monday. The round-trip flight between Columbus and Atlanta will begin in June.
Last year was a record-setting year for GTRA, Hainsey said, and Delta’s addition of the flight is good for long-term growth.
“We’ve been working with Delta for two years to get this flight,” Hainsey said. “The number of people on our airplanes is so high that people weren’t flying out of here because either seats weren’t available or prices were too high. We weren’t as competitive, and we were losing customers to Birmingham, Jackson and Memphis, especially Birmingham.”
The new flight will see existing flights moved around slightly, he said.
“The midday flight and afternoon flight were shifted about half an hour to 45 minutes,” he said.
Departures once the new schedule comes into effect will be at 6:30 a.m., 9:50 a.m., 1:50 p.m. and 4:55 p.m. The last arrival of the day will remain 8 p.m., he said.
“It’ll be easier to make connections to New York and Washington, DC, which are our top two destinations,” he said. “If someone’s heading to the west coast and they leave at 1:50 they can still get in before dinnertime. We’re finding more and more with business travelers they want to get here and work and then take the 4:55 flight and be home by 10 p.m. to sleep in their own beds.”
The fourth flight will be on one of the same 50-seat regional jets as the other three flights.
“As we continue to grow they will likely bump up the size of the busiest flight to 70 seats,” he said.
Hainsey estimated that the flights will be back up to their current high load factors by October or November of this year.
The new flight beginning in June works out will coincide with the end of the current terminal expansion, he said.
“The expansion gives us an extra 5,120 square feet,” he said. “That leaves us in decent shape with our infrastructure except for parking.”
A parking lot expansion is in the works and Hainsey said he hopes it will be ready by June.
GTRA is planning an aggressive marketing push into the Tuscaloosa area, he said.
“We already get some people from Gordo and Reform, but there’s almost no difference between driving from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham or GTR,” he said. “Depending on where you measure from it’s at most two miles further to get here.”
Hainsey said that negotiations with American for westbound service are still ongoing, but not likely to bear fruit soon.
“I don’t see it happening in the next six to nine months,” he said. “But the new Delta service will fill the capacity gap nicely.”
In other business, Hainsey said that a new TSA Pre-Check registration event is scheduled for GTRA on March 11-15. Anyone interested can go to the airport’s web site, www.gtra.com, for more information.