Georgia Skies now has gate access at Atlanta airport

Georgia Skies, the small airline that offers flights to Atlanta out of Middle Georgia Regional Airport, won gate access at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport earlier this month, Middle Georgia Regional manager Scott Coffman said.

That could be a game changer for the airline. It means travelers can clear security in Macon and make connecting flights in Atlanta without having to go through the screening process at one of the world’s busiest airports.

Before getting this access, which Coffman said is at Hartsfield-Jackson’s Terminal E, Georgia Skies travelers flew to Atlanta but were shuttled into the airport proper, where they had to stand in line for security checks.

“This makes me want to start flying out of Macon again,” said Erick Erickson, a Macon city councilman who often flies for business.

Erickson said he used to fly out of Macon but stopped when Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Georgia Skies predecessor at Middle Georgia Regional, became unreliable.

Georgia Skies flights were still $39 on Wednesday, not including some taxes and fees, according to the airline’s Web site. The airline can offer such a low price because of a $1.3 million annual subsidy the federal government offers to keep planes flying out of Macon.

That’s about $700,000 a year less than Delta and ASA got to operate flights to Atlanta before Pacific Wings, which does business in Middle Georgia as Georgia Skies, took over the program in 2008.

Those subsidies are part of the more than $100 million in yearly subsidies the federal government gives airlines across the country to keep plans flying from communities that might not be able offer affordable flights without government support.

Georgia Skies has four flights to Atlanta each weekday and five flights returning from Atlanta to Macon, Coffman said. An attempt to reach Pacific Wings President Greg Kahlstorf through Coffman for further comment Wednesday was not successful. Coffman, who manages the airport for the city of Macon through a contract with a private airport management company, said there’s no guarantee Georgia Skies won’t raise its prices.

But, for now, “it’s cool — you can fly up there for $39,” Coffman said.

Erickson said he flew Georgia Skies when the airline first started up the service.

“It was smooth, exceedingly quiet and it’s a quick trip up,” he said. “You get free parking out at the (Middle Georgia Regional) airport, and five minutes through security and you’re done.”

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.