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Thursday, January 3, 2013 - 12:17pm

Sun Air Pulls Out Of Macon Deal

A Florida airline that was supposed to take over passenger service at Middle Georgia Regional Airport has pulled out of the deal.

Sun Air was the winning bidder for a federal subsidy to provide service from Macon to Atlanta, and the company was scheduled to begin service near the start of 2013.

But in an email to the U.S. Department of Transportation, company officials said they’ve decided to focus on other markets.

The current carrier, GeorgiaSkies, will continue service while the federal government solicits bids from other companies, said airport manager Doug Faour. He said he’s hopeful that another carrier will come in with larger ambitions.

"I would love to see an airline that had destinations to Atlanta and cities other than Atlanta," Faour said. "Charlotte, Orlando, those are two that come to mind."

That may not be realistic, said George Berry, the retired general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Berry now lives near Macon in Forsyth, and recently helped the City of Macon conduct a review of Middle Georgia Regional Airport, which the city owns.

About 900 passengers used the airport in 2011, Berry said, down from about 30,000 a decade ago.

"When there is a major airport within an hour or so's drive, the tendency in recent years has been commercial air service has dried up," Berry said. "I think Macon is fighting a losing battle."

Berry said he'll be surprised if the federal Essential Air Service program that subsidizes these types of routes even survives the coming budget talks in Washington.

A spokesperson for Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said the city is planning to focus on freight, maintenance, and other non-passenger services at the airport going forward.