EDITORIAL: With Delta, Again: Use It or Lose It
OK, folks, here we go again.
Starting March 14 -- two weeks from today! -- Delta Air Lines is giving Moore County another chance to use its new air passenger service frequently enough to justify keeping it. If we fall short again this year, as we (sort of) did last year, we may lose it for a long time and go back to driving to Raleigh, Greensboro or Charlotte for all our airline connections.
That would be a pity -- for our convenience as travelers and for the welfare of our local economy.
Last year's less than stellar showing -- an average "load factor" of about 60 percent on flights to and from the Delta hub in Atlanta -- was not entirely our fault. In its first year here, Delta made the mistake of putting the arrival and departure of its once-a-day (except Tuesdays) flights on a pretty terrible schedule in terms of the way real people live their lives and plan their travels.
The morning arrival time meant that passengers traveling here from other originating airports either had to leave at 0-dark-30 and change in Atlanta or else go to the trouble of spending the night there.
'More Options to Connect'
Delta has taken heed of local concerns and complaints about the first year's schedule -- something that is to the airline's eternal credit. After all, the company does have other things on its corporate mind. It has been in the throes of bankruptcies and hostile takeover bids. It flies 250,000 passengers a day, for which our measly 80 are less than a drop in the bucket. "They don't have to give us the time of day," as Maness put it.
But they listened. Under the new schedule, the daily flight (except Tuesdays and Saturdays at the beginning of the season) will leave Atlanta at 2:45 p.m., arriving at the Moore County Airport at 3:57 p.m. The outgoing flight departs at 4:25 p.m., arriving back in Atlanta at 5:43 p.m.
That's more like it.
"The afternoon departure gives passengers more options to connect," says Ron Maness, the highly competent and personable manager that the Moore County Airport is fortunate enough to have as its executive director. Maness and Caleb Miles, president of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau, constitute about the most effective tag team a community could hope for in airport and air-service promotion.
Emphasis on 'Destination'
We strongly urge all our readers, whether individual fliers or those who arrange company travel, to keep Delta's Moore County service foremost in mind when planning their comings and goings this summer. Tickets to and from here may cost somewhat more ($119 one-way to Atlanta, $129 to Chicago, $149 to Los Angeles), but that is offset by significant savings in gasoline, time delays, bother and big-airport parking fees.
Frustratingly, though, Delta's decision on whether to stay may depend in the end less on what we here do than on what strangers in other places do. The airline's experience last year has prompted it to put more emphasis on Moore as a "destination" market than an "origination" one.
That means airline marketers will be trying hard to increase the number of inbound passengers drawn to local resorts and attractions.
So we've got our work cut out for us. Not only do we have to use this service more, but we also have to talk it up among our friends and family everywhere else.
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