The return of passenger service from Macon’s main airport came at the perfect time for Cindie and Bryan Vance.
“Our daughter just moved to Baltimore last month, took three of our grandchildren. So we are delighted that once a month I can be on a plane and be right at her house,” Cindie Vance said as she headed toward security at Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
She and her husband were the first to clear the TSA checkpoint for the 7:15 a.m. flight to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
“I just really enjoy this opportunity,” Bryan Vance said before going through the magnetometer while the first hint of sun was on the horizon.
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His work schedule won’t allow him to fly as often as his wife, but she was thrilled to catch a flight so close to their Macon home.
“The thought of going to Atlanta and fighting the Atlanta airport scares me to death,” she said.
Although inaugural reservations were offered for $49, one-way fares are now priced as low as $69 and will eventually be $89.
Passenger Zandra Hayes, who is relocating to the Washington, D.C., area from Robins Air Force Base, was on a house-hunting expedition and bought a ticket on the first flight.
“The prices are very reasonable, so I’m excited and glad that it’s here,” Hayes said. “I love it. I’m so glad that it started.”
After her move, Hayes said she will be able to visit her Middle Georgia friends more often without spending a lot of money.
Flights from Macon, which has free parking, can be cheaper than what some travelers pay to park at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport or ride a shuttle service to Atlanta.
Since BWI is one of the main hubs for Southwest Airlines, connecting flights also could prove to be a bargain.
Nikeeta Brewton of Warner Robins drove 20 minutes to get to the airport and board the plane to go visit her father.
“I think it’s very exciting. I love it,” Brewton said. “It’s very convenient to be able to just come to Macon as opposed to driving all the way to Atlanta.”
Brewton said the Contour Airlines staff was “very professional and nice.”
The new passenger service also means changes for the staff at Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
For Assistant Airport Manager Blake Roy, Friday was the first day in nearly three years that a commercial airliner was flying out of the airport between Macon and Warner Robins.
“It’s really great to see passengers coming back,” said Roy, who took Thursday’s inaugural flight with county leaders.
He believes once folks see how easy it is to take the 90-minute flight, hop on a free eight-minute shuttle to the train station for a 35-minute trip to Union Station in D.C., business will take off.
Passenger Roy Ellis of Macon convinced his “favorite aunt” Susan Romines to leave her Bolingbroke home for a weekend of touring the Smithsonian museums.
“Part of the excitement was to be on the first flight,” said Romines, who has traveled to the nation’s capital on business, but without enough time to really catch all the sights.
Ellis is going to visit the last two museums he hasn’t seen in his quest to visit all the Smithsonians.
“I’m very excited just to take advantage of the Macon airport.”
For Friday’s first flight, 27 of the 30 roomy seats were filled, Roy said.
Contour Airlines removed 7 seats and reconfigured its jet to expand the leg room to more of what you would expect in first class.
Departing flights now leave at 7:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. and return to Macon at 11:25 a.m. and 6:55 p.m.
“We really expect this service to grow and hopefully add more cities in the future,” he said.
The staff’s first priority posted on a task board was to get rid of the wasp nests that had taken hold in the outdoor baggage dock since Silver Airways left in fall of 2014.
In addition to adding TSA and airline staff, Dab’s Cafe is expanding its 11 a.m.-2 p.m. lunch hours to add a “grab and go” breakfast.
Dab Appling now wakes up before 5 a.m. to work from 5:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
“I’m drinking coffee every day,” Appling said with a laugh after setting out hot biscuits and fresh fruit at her stand in the terminal.
“We can’t wait to see all the traffic that will be coming through this Macon airport nowadays,” Appling said. “We’ve been without it and we realized how bad we needed it, and so now we’ll hopefully use it now that it’s here.”