An application by Delta Air Lines to stop flights to the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport is no longer under consideration after a policy change at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Due to a drop in passengers — largely a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and government-mandated shutdowns — Delta reduced the number of flights between Brunswick and Atlanta from three to one.
Delta couldn’t completely stop flights because it accepted federal funding through the CARES Act, a $2 trillion relief bill meant to help businesses, health facilities and individuals get through the COVID-19 outbreak.
Any businesses that accepted the funding must offer minimum services until September, but the act allowed for exemptions.
Delta applied for the exemption last month that would have allowed it to suspend flights to Brunswick and to other airports.
“The (DOT) issued a new policy statement, and in that docket, it gave all the airlines eligibility to unilaterally reduce all their service by five percent,” said Robert Burr, executive director of the Glynn County Airport Commission. “But also, contained in that, they can’t cease service to an area (where) they are the only carrier.”
Delta is the only commercial airline serving the Brunswick airport so the airline’s request for service suspension is no longer valid, he said.
“We’re increasing passenger loads on aircraft, which is good, and as more facilities continue to open we expect that to increase even further,” Burr said.
Burr said he heard nothing from Delta about stopping flights after September.
“Flights will follow demand. They have indicated they will add more flights if we need them,” Burr said.
To adhere to social distancing, the airline is only booking up to half capacity. The planes in the Brunswick-Atlanta circuit hold 50 passengers.
“We just had 20 passengers on a flight, so we were close to full capacity (Monday),” Burr said. “The bookings as we go further down the line are even higher.”
Planes are also disinfected between each flight, and passengers and Delta personnel are required to wear masks.
As the nation returns to business as usual, Burr said he is optimistic.
“It’s good news. We know we’re on a good rebound, and hopefully, the rebound is a very quick one,” Burr said.
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, voiced the only official objection to federal transportation officials to Delta’s proposal to suspend all flights to Brunswick, saying the airline should be required to continue serving the coastal community after accepting $5.4 billion in federal CARES Act funds.