I can't be the only person in Athens who grows tired of reading about our local airport's woes. Ridership is declining, it's not profitable, and while private planes fly out of Athens plenty very few commercial passengers do.
I am an Athens citizen. I fly a dozen or so times a year, generally for business. And I have never flown out of the Athens airport. I probably never will, and here are a few reasons why.
1. UGA doesn't go there.
UGA, of course, is the county's largest employer, and which has exclusive contracts for services, which employees are supposed to abide by. Yesterday I received a chipper missive from the powers that be informing me that UGA has renewed its Delta contract. Delta does not fly to Athens. So, UGA employees, who compose 1/10th of the town and a significantly higher percentage of its travel, are discouraged from flying out of Athens.
2. Flying out of Athens is expensive.
Generally more expensive than simply driving 60 miles to the airport you're going to fly through anyway. More expensive than Greenville-Spartanburg, which is the least stressful airport drive from Athens. Expensive enough that one can generally pay for a two-way shuttle to Atlanta and come out ahead by going to the further airport. In order for Athens air service to be competitive, pricing must be competitive with the cost of going to an alternate airport.
3. Flying out of Athens is inconvenient.
There are practically no flights, and any trip to anywhere not on the East Coast is greatly prolonged by a flight originating in Athens.
There are a few advantages to flying from Athens/Ben Epps. Namely free parking and the ability to waste less of your time getting to and from the airport. But without resolving all three of the issues above, ridership in Athens will never be sufficient to sustain decent service.