Delta eyes mainline flight service between Atlanta and Chattanooga airports

Delta eyes mainline flight service between Atlanta and Chattanooga airports

June 12th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A Delta airlines jet takes off in this file photo.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

DELTA FLIGHT

• Leaves Chattanooga - 6:45 a.m.; arrives in Atlanta - 7:35 a.m.

• Leaves Atlanta - 7:15 p.m.; arrives in Chattanooga - 8:01 p.m.

Source: Chattanooga Airport

After 17 years, Delta Air Lines will return mainline service between Chattanooga and Atlanta in September, but it's not certain the 125-seat flight will stay after the end of the year.

Delta's last regular mainline flight to Chattanooga was in 1995 when it ended 48 years of service to the city. Delta was replaced with Delta Connection carriers such as Atlantic Southeast Airlines.

The new once-a-day Delta roundtrip, starting Sept. 5, will feature a DC-9 and have both first-class and coach seats, according to the airport.

Terry Hart, chief executive of the Chattanooga Airport, said in an email that the change will help business travelers and put more seats in the market.

"Delta [Connection] already flies 11 daily flights to Atlanta and another two daily flights to Detroit," he said.

Airport spokeswoman Christina Siebold said the Delta plane will replace an existing, smaller regional jet flown by a Delta Connection carrier.

The Delta flight will start during the airport's busiest time of the year, but the carrier hasn't indicated if the flight will last into 2013, she said.

When Delta ended its mainline service to Chattanooga in 1995, ASA took over the service between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Almost immediately, regular passengers began complaining about canceled and late flights. About six months after Delta's pull-out, air traffic in Chattanooga plunged by 20 percent as travelers went to other airports to fly.

In addition, ground transportation businesses sprang up to provide shuttle service to airports in Atlanta and Nashville.

For years after that, the airport experienced on-again, off-again problems with ASA service. The difficulties were often blamed on Atlanta's busy airport.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.