It’s here! Azaleas are blooming, the course is manicured to a tee, and fans are arriving in droves. Masters Week officially begins today, but visitors started arriving over the weekend for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Drive, Chip, and Putt for golf’s future stars. Those events bring golfers and visitors before the tournament, giving Augusta airport the chance to ramp up for the big event.
“It’s increased traffic, but kind of like an incremental step,” said Augusta Airport Executive Director, Herbert Judon, Jr. “It’s almost like a practice round for us to handle the increased traffic and just the buzz and the energy.”
The tens of thousands of golf fans who visit each year make for very busy days on area roads, lodgings, and local businesses. Numbers provided by Destination Augusta show the economic impact on accommodation from the tournament before COVID-19, through the height of the pandemic and the rebound in 2022.
• April 2019 – Over $26 million in hotel/motel revenue, up +11% from April 2018
• April 2020 (no Masters) Right at $4 million in hotel/motel revenue, down -85% from April 2019
• April 2021 (limited spectators) –$15 million in hotel/motel revenue, up +275% April 2020
• April 2022 (regular Masters) – $26 million in hotel/motel revenue, up +78% from 2021
Many of those fans arrive by commercial and private aircraft at Augusta Regional and Daniel Field. Members of the Aviation Commission met on March 30th and heard updates from staff on preparations and what guests will see arriving and departing.
150 employees are standing by ready to work, 12 fuel trucks to provide service to commercial and private aircraft, and 15 passenger vans are on hand to help shuttle passengers.
The airport has also reclaimed a section they can use to park aircraft. The area had been used as a temporary hanger for the Augusta University Medical Center’s medical helicopter. However, construction was completed, and a permanent hangar was dedicated in late February and the temporary structure was removed. The airport has also completed the N-1 taxiway.
“It’s an additional piece of pavement, basically, it’s about 200 by 400 or so. So, that will give us more capacity to park planes here, which will increase the capacity here, just depending on the size of the plane,” said Executive Director, Herbert Judon, Jr.
Hinkle said they traditionally can park 160 airplanes. The additional space could increase capacity to 180 aircraft.
Once again, this year, private pilots will be able to use the Eastern Fixed Base Operation. It provides direct access for their passengers and car services with an entrance at 3006 Lock and Dam Ct. Passengers can be picked up and dropped off there, rather than being shuttled to the main terminal.
Among the services expanded for Masters Week are the Passenger Assistant Liaisons, the customer service agents that assist passengers with wheelchairs, luggage, and overall customer service needs.
Normally, the airport has five PALS on duty, Monday through Friday, from 4:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. That grows to 12 during Masters Week on various shifts through April 10.
Inside the main terminal, travelers are treated to the area’s local talent with artwork from local artists on display and area musicians performing in the gate area.
Should any traveler feel stressed, a special group of ambassadors will be available.
“We have a therapy dog program called Paws for Pass, so paws for our passengers. And those teams will be out roaming around meeting with all the passengers,” said Lauren Smith, the airport’s Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
“It’s a stress reliever to air travel and a distraction for little children. They love the dogs and they’ll get on the floor and play with them. So, it’s just a fun thing that we offer our passengers.”
As visitors leave Augusta, Judon and Smith both have something they hope the guests will take with them, that they had a wonderful experience and they’ll fly through us again.