Augusta Regional could lose its direct flight to Washington, DC

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, May 28, 2013

airport entrance
Augusta Regional Airport. (November 17, 2010 / WRDW-TV)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A potential merger between two airlines has Augusta Regional's direct flight from Augusta to Washington, D.C., up in the air.

US Airways and American Airlines are working to combine, but Jet Blue says if that happens, they want more slots in the D.C. airport.

Jet Blue doesn't service Augusta, so if it gets more flights to D.C., that means we could be losing ours.

You've probably seen the commercial saying, "US Airways express announces daily, direct, nonstop jet service from Augusta to Washington, D.C."

It's been a major selling point for Augusta Regional, and a popular flight, but soon that commercial and the planes flying to and from D.C. could be leaving the air.

It's all because Jet Blue is trying to take advantage of a potential merger between US Airways and American Airlines.

"Jet Blue has contacted the Department of Justice requesting, if the merger does go through, they relinquish some of the slots that are going into Washington, D.C. Because Jet Blue has larger aircraft, they would want the direct service for themselves," said Augusta Regional Communications Manager Lauren Smith.

If the DOJ agrees, it's likely they'd start moving the direct flights from the smaller airports like Augusta Regional, but people in the community say that's a decision that won't fly.

"It is a flight that people value. We don't want to see this flight lost," said Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Jameson.

Right now, we have a direct flight to D.C. every day, and airport officials say each flight is always 60 to 70 percent full. Losing that flight could put a major strain on businesses around the area.

"Yes, it is a popular flight. A lot of businesses use it. We have Fort Gordon that uses it, SRS, Plant Vogtle. Pretty much all the major industries around here use that flight," Smith said.

Without it, almost 300 people every week would have to make the trip to either Atlanta or Charlotte. Both the Augusta and Aiken Chamber of Commerce have written letters of support to make sure that doesn't happen.

"Our two major employers in the region use this flight quite frequently. If they have to revert back to a flight with a connection, they just waste time, and time is money," Jameson said.

Airport officials want to reiterate that it's not the merger that's creating the problem. In fact, the merger could be a good thing for Augusta Regional.

Airport officials say if it goes through, Augusta could be getting a direct flight to Dallas.

As for Jet Blue's request, right now it's a waiting game, but they encourage other businesses and citizens to write letters of support for keeping the direct flight to D.C.

If you want to send a letter, here are some addresses provided by airport officials:

The Department of Transportation

The Honorable Ray LaHood
United States Department of Transportation
West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20590-9898

The Honorable Susan Kurland, Esq.
Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590-9898

The Department of Justice

The Honorable William J. Baer, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Department of Justice, Antitrust Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Senate Antitrust Subcommittee

The Honorable Amy J. Klobuchar
Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust,
Competition Policy and Consumer Rights
United States Senate
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mike Lee
Ranking Member, Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust,
Competition Policy and Consumer Rights
United States Senate
316 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

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