Middle Georgia airport leaders eying more casino resort destinations

Arizona-based Swift Air offered a chartered flight in December 2018 out of Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
Arizona-based Swift Air offered a chartered flight in December 2018 out of Middle Georgia Regional Airport. Special to The Telegraph

The popularity of casino resorts chartered flights out of Middle Georgia Regional Airport is leading to a trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey, in January.

Regional airport officials could soon find out if another charter flight service will be flying out of the Macon airport on a regular basis. The latest development revolves around Arizona-based Swift Air offering its second charter flight in as many months, regional airport manager Erick D’Leon said.

In December, the airline tested out the market by taking passengers from the Augusta and Macon airports on a chartered trip to a Tunica, Mississippi, casino resort. Now, another Swift chartered flight is scheduled Jan. 11-13 from Macon to Atlantic City, D’Leon said.

Since 2016, another airline, Sun Country, has offered vacation deals out of Macon to Biloxi, Mississippi’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.

“In Atlanta, with Delta (Airlines) getting so big and busy ... a lot of these charter operations struggle to get a space that operates on their timeline,” D’Leon said.

He added later, “We started here with Sun County for a couple of months out of the year. It did so well, they said ‘we’ll continue to do it every month.’”

Work continues behind the scenes to see if there will be more chances to partner with an airline and casino for more charter flights, he said.

The airport’s commercial flight service expanded in December when Contour Airlines began flying to and from Tampa, Florida.

Passenger count exceeds expectations

The regional airport was able to surpass a passenger milestone in 2018 that will give it access to a $1 million federal grant.

From January-November there were 14,109 passengers who boarded planes at Middle Georgia Regional Airport, according to figures from Macon-Bibb County. Those numbers were sparked by commercial service to the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area, along with the Sun Country flights.

The airport needed to surpass 10,000 “enplanements” within a 12-month period in order to receive the larger federal grant for infrastructure improvements.

“For us, we never have a shortage of capital improvements that we would like to get done,” D’Leon said. “What this really does for us is it helps put some weight behind those projects now that we have additional funds.”

Although many people view the success of an airport based on the success of its flight service, there’s another side that’s important as well, he said.

The regional airport lost aircraft maintenance and manufacturers — Boeing, HAECO and Bombardier — in 2016 and 2017. However, last year aircraft manufacturers Stevens Aerospace and Defense Systems and Embraer agreed to operate out of the regional airport’s hangars.

”The airport is really prospering with both right now,” D’Leon said.