Airport ready to fight for service

Airport ready to fight for service

By SHANESSA FAKOUR The Brunswick News

The Glynn County Airport Commission’s Rolodex will be spinning this week as it reaches out to various sectors of the community to plead its case to Delta Air Lines to maintain service at the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport.

The commission received word July 14 from state Rep. Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, that Delta managers were evaluating the market for a possible reduction in service by its contract carrier, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, commission executive director Steve Brian said Tuesday during a commission meeting to discuss strategies for retaining service. ASA has three flights daily between Brunswick and Atlanta.

The commission Tuesday formed a team of political, business and government leaders to develop a presentation for a fast approaching meeting with Delta managers at 10 a.m. Aug. 4 in Atlanta.

The plan is to focus on business development, political leverage and public support in hope of changing Delta managers’ opinion of the sluggish market.

Brian said ridership between Atlanta and Brunswick has declined because of a weak national economy, but the downward trend is starting to slow.

“The trend is reversing itself,” Brian said. “A marketing campaign may help to get passengers on board.”

The airport is being marketed on travel websites, billboards on Interstates 95 and 16 and on U.S. 17, in newspapers advertisements and at trade shows.

He said trying to match Delta’s fares in Jacksonville, an airport about 70 miles south of Brunswick, is another major component of the campaign.

“If (Delta) leaves Brunswick, where they have 100 percent of the market, they will have to go to Jacksonville to dilute it,” Brian said, referring to the several airlines that fly out of that airport, where Delta has about a 30 percent market share. “Hopefully, that will be meaningful to them,” Brian said.

The business development strategy to boost the airport’s prospects with Delta will look at ways to get more passengers on airplanes, Brian said.

He said he will meet with Connie Patrick, director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which has the largest single customer base for the airport, to discuss programs that will board more FLETC students in Brunswick instead of Jacksonville.

While the cycle of students is low, it will increase as the economy improves, he said.

The commission will try to garner political support from U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, and U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., by asking them to meet with either Delta managers in Atlanta or a Delta lobbyist in Washington. The commission is also seeking support from Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The commission wants the public to express support for the airport by writing letters to newspapers and by asking Chamber of Commerce members and city and county officials to write to Delta about the need for continued air service.

The commission also plans to emphasize a bright future for the community by highlighting growth at College of Coastal Georgia, which recently became a four-year institution, and revitalization projects on Jekyll Island to make it a more attractive travel destination.

Commission members will meet Thursday with presentation committee members to review plans for the next two weeks.

Committee members include Woody Woodside, president of the Brunswick Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce; FLETC Director Patrick; Michael Hodges, Ameris Bank president and a board member of Jekyll Island Authority; and Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority,

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