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Flights could end at Macon airport | News

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Flights could end at Macon airport

Macon-Bibb Commission voted to begin a 10-thousand dollar market study to show the U.S. Department of Transportation there's a need and a desire for commercial flights in Macon.

The D.O.T. tentatively stopped nearly 2 million dollars in federal funding set to renew in October. Airport manager Doug Faour says the money goes directly to Silver Airways, which flies from Macon to Atlanta and Orlando.

In April, the D.O.T. listed Macon's airport as one of thirteen in the nation that may no longer be eligible for those federal dollars, including Athens-Ben Epps Airport in Clarke County. Faour says under the guidelines for the Essential Air Service program, airports must serve an average of 10 passengers a day. The D.O.T. says Macon's airport averaged four a day in fiscal 2013. Faour says the market study will help show the D.O.T. the lack of passengers is temporary, and it will also attract other airlines and businesses to Macon.

"We believe that this shortage of passengers that we have right now is only temporary and that with time, we will rebuild that and we'd be able to meet the requirements of the program and exceed it in the near future," Faour said. "It can't happen overnight. It takes time."

In a letter asking for state representatives' support, Mayor Robert Reichert said the loss of federal funding would have a "direct, negative affect on Macon-Bibb County and its future growth."

"They will be able to tell us the marketability of people who live in this area, where are they flying, are they flying out of Atlanta, what are they doing, what can we do to attract them to start using this facility?" said Commissioner Mallory Jones, who vice-chairs Macon-Bibb's facilities and engineering committee.

"We strongly believe there is a market here," Faour said. "The airport creates jobs. It's attractive for businesses that want to relocate."

Faour says flight service in Macon may only be able to survive with the federal subsidy. He also says, even if federal funding flies away, "We're not giving up on commercial air service. We could continue to try to find a way to do it unsubsidized or look for other ways to fund the operation."

We could not reach Silver Airways for comment.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Twitter @anita_oh and on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ.


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