Airline announces new flights to a tourist destination from the Macon airport

A new air service will offer flights between Macon and Tampa, Florida, starting in December.

The announcement of the expanded flight service to the Sunshine State was made Wednesday at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport. The flights start Dec. 19 for the weekly Wednesday and Saturday service, Contour Airlines CEO Matt Chaifetz said.

A limited number of introductory tickets are on sale for $79 each way.

Flights are available through the end of February, but service could be extended beyond that depending on the success, Chaifetz said.

The expanded service comes on the heels of the success of Contour Airlines’ service between Macon and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area over the last year. There have been more than 28,000 passengers using that service over the last 14 months.

Tampa was selected because it is one of the more popular destinations for Middle Georgia, Chaifetz said.

“We are delivering a product that we think is vastly better than anything you can get out of the Atlanta area at a more competitive price point,” Chaifetz said.

Unlike the flights between Macon and the D.C. area, the Tampa flights are not subsidized through a federal program designed to help smaller cities have regular passenger service.

“This market has far exceeded our expectations, and it’s really given us the confidence to make today’s announcement about a second market that is not subsidized by the Essential Air Service program,” Chaifetz said. “This service is completely at-risk to Contour and a testament to our belief in the strength of the market here in Macon.”

Wednesdays and Saturdays were selected because those days fit best into the schedule Contour has for the flights between Macon and the Baltimore airport. The flights to Tampa will be on the same type of jets, which have 30 seats, and flights will last about one hour, Chaifetz said.

Wednesday’s announcement is in stark contrast to the fate of previous airline carriers that offered service out of the regional airport. In those instances, airline companies left because of issues ranging from low numbers of passengers to a high number of cancellations and delays.

Airport officials are expected to make another announcement soon about surpassing the milestone of having 10,000 passengers boarding planes in Macon to travel to Baltimore Washington International Airport over the last 12 months. Once the regional airport hits that milestone, it will be eligible to receive a $1 million federal grant.

Contour, based out of Smyrna, Tennessee, has been successful with meeting passengers’, needs and recent improvements to the regional airport aim to do the same, airport manager Erick D’Leon said.

“The strategic thinking and planning that we do to make sure the business product that we’re offering is what people need matches the community’s response to that service,” he said. “I think that has really driven the group and has taken off, pun intended.”

Mayor Robert Reichert said the Tampa service will be attractive to many people throughout the area.

“The region will benefit from this. This is not just for the folks in Macon and Bibb County,” he said.

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