VALDOSTA — South Georgia's frequent fliers will soon be able to fly a little more frequently.
Delta Airlines, the sole commercial passenger service operating through Valdosta Regional Airport, will add an extra flight a day between the Azalea City and Atlanta starting next year, according to a statement from Delta.
Currently, the airline offers three flights a day each way between Valdosta and Atlanta, except on Saturdays when there are only two flights. Atlanta is the only city directly served by commercial flights from Valdosta.
The new four-flights-a-day schedule starts June 8, the statement said.
"This is something we have wanted for years and years," said Jim Galloway, executive director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Airport Authority and airport manager.
Delta informed the airport authority about the extra flights last week, he said.
"This adds 350 seats a week out of Valdosta," Galloway said. "Right now, its not uncommon for all the seats on a flight to be oversold."
Under the new schedule, flights starting in Valdosta will take off at 6:15 a.m., 11:40 a.m., 3:10 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; flights from Atlanta to Valdosta will get airborne at 10:05 a.m., 1:40 p.m., 4:50 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
The additional flights will be a boon to businessmen, Galloway said.
"Right now, the last flight out is around 4:30 p.m.," he said. "A businessman has to cut his hours early to get to the airport. But with one of the new flights leaving at 6:30 p.m., he can get in more of his working day."
Travelers returning to Valdosta, especially from the West Coast, will be pleased as well, Galloway said.
"Many air passengers are getting here with the last flight after 10 p.m.," he said. "With the new schedule, they can get here around 6 p.m."
Car rental desks at the airport are already open late enough to accommodate the new schedule, he said.
At the airport, the biggest impact will be on ground handling staff and Transportation Security Administration agents, Galloway said.
The Delta flights in and out of Valdosta are actually handled by Skywest Airlines on Delta's behalf, using Bombadier CRJ-200 jets with a 50-seat capacity.
Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.