Athens Banner Herald - Online Athens 11/2/09:
Airline passengers flying from Athens on Georgia Skies now can go through airline security here and avoid the onerous lines at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. "Georgia Skies has secured a gate in Atlanta, and they are screening bags here in Athens," said Tim Beggerly, Athens-Ben Epps Airport director. "When (passengers) get to Atlanta, (they) don't have to go through screening again." Georgia Skies now delivers its passengers to Gate 37 at Hartsfield's E concourse. Passengers going on to a connecting flight on another airline can move through the concourse without passing through security again, and Georgia Skies transfers luggage to passengers' connecting flights. "We interline with all the major airlines," said Greg Kahlstorf, president of Pacific Wings, the parent company of Georgia Skies. "You can check in at the airport in Athens, and you don't see your bag again until you reach your final destination." The airline offers five round-trip flights to Atlanta each Monday through Friday and three round-trip flights each Saturday and Sunday. One-way tickets are $39. Georgia Skies, which began service between Athens and Atlanta and between Macon and Atlanta in October 2008, has been trying for more than a year to make arrangements with the Atlanta airport for use of a gate, Kahlstorf said. Until Georgia Skies obtained gate access, the airline had been flying passengers to Hartsfield-Jackson's fixed base operations center, then running a shuttle to the terminal where customers had to go through long security lines. Athens passengers now can undergo security screening in Athens in minutes, Beggerly said. "I've been (to the terminal) for several screenings to see how they go, and they probably take about five minutes," he said. Georgia Skies operates under the U.S. Department of Transportation's Essential Air Service program, which provides funding to help pay for unprofitable air service for small and medium-sized airports like Athens. The DOT subsidizes nearly $1.1 million for the Athens air service. The ability to forgo the crowded screening lines in Atlanta should help Georgia Skies draw more passengers in Athens, said Gerald Driver, chairman of the Athens-Ben Epps Airport Authority. "I'm ecstatic about it and hoping it's going to bring our ridership up a good bit," Driver said. Georgia Skies averaged 308 passengers a month this year, Beggerly said.