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Augusta, GA

PBI offers nonstop flights to Augusta, Ga. and St. Louis as airport smashes passenger record

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PBI offers nonstop flights to Augusta, Ga. and St. Louis as airport smashes passenger record



New flight offerings have helped to drive passenger volume at both South Florida airports. Of concern, though, is the outcome of the Spirit-JetBlue merger. The airlines are dominant carriers.

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More than 7.8 million passengers flew out of Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) in 2023, eclipsing the previous record of 6.9 million passengers set in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 by 13% and the 2022 number by 17%.

2024 is already off to a strong start, according to Senior Deputy Director of Airports Gary Sypek, who expects a new passenger record again as airlines will be flying to more destinations. Silver Airways has returned, and is expected to offer direct flights to three Florida cities later this year.

New flight offerings at PBI include:

  • Golf enthusiasts lucky enough to get Masters tickets will be able to fly out of PBI on Delta Airlines direct to Augusta, Georgia while Southwest Airlines will be offering nonstop service to St. Louis during spring training. The St. Louis Cardinals train in Jupiter at Roger Dean Stadium.
  • Silver Airways, daily flights to Tampa and Nassau beginning March 5; Tallahassee service three times a week beginning March 6; Pensacola service two times a week beginning March 7; and service to Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, times a week beginning March 5.
  • Frontier Airlines, new nonstop service from to San Juan, Puerto Rico three times a week beginning June 2.
  • American Airlines, extended nonstop service to Chicago O’Hare throughout the summer.

PBI passenger numbers have shown for some time that the airport has fully recovered from the pandemic slowdown.

MORE: A ‘game changer’: JetBlue direct flights from Fort Lauderdale to Tallahassee begin

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JetBlue continues to be the number one carrier at PBI, accounting for 27% of all traffic in 2023. The airline processed 1.1 million passengers, marking the first time it exceeded the one-million figure.

Delta was a close second to JetBlue, accounting for 26% of passengers. Southwest registered the largest percentage increase year-to-year of any airline, up 46% from 2022 with 293,000 passengers serviced.

Silver Airways spokeswoman Kate Loughlin said Silver recognizes PBI as a great niche market as there is a great demand for flights within Florida and to the Bahamas from PBI. Its planes can carry up to 70 passengers. One-way fares start at $79 for Tampa, $105 for Tallahassee, $109 for Marsh Harbour, $115 for Nassau and $119 for Pensacola.

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PBI had a busy December with nearly 800,000 passengers using the airport, 14% more than in 2022. But it may have been too busy as many travelers had to deal with flight delays of two hours or more during the month due to heavy air traffic volume.

The FAA issued ground delays from Dec. 26 through Dec. 28 to limit air traffic. As a result, flights headed to and from the airport were delayed an average of 70 minutes. More than 100 flights were impacted. Other South Florida airports experienced extensive delays as well.

How did Fort Lauderdale Airport fare?

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) also reported strong numbers for 2023; preliminary data shows that nearly 35 million travelers flew out of the Broward County-based airport.

Unlike PBI, FLL has yet to exceed the pre-COVID traffic of 2019. While the 2023 figure is 10% higher than 2022, it is about 5% less than the 2019 number. FLL’s newsletter reports a busy holiday time. From Dec. 21 to Jan. 6, it served roughly 2 million passengers, about 14% more people than the same period the previous year.

FLL continues to offer new flights:

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  • JetBlue celebrated its inaugural service to Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) on January 4. The flights operate once daily.
  • Silver Airways began offering nonstop service on Dec. 18 to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Flights operate twice weekly. One-way fares start at $129.

Can Spirit survive as a stand-alone carrier?

PBI and FLL could be hurt by the outcome of the proposed JetBlue-Spirit airlines merger. A federal judge has blocked the merger because he found it would lead to much higher fares for consumers. The two airlines are appealing the decision. A hearing is expected to be heard in June.

MORE: Spirit, JetBlue appeal of decision that blocked its merger to be heard in June. Will it be too late?

Spirit stock has lost more than half of its value since the court ruling in January. Analysts have speculated that the airline will not survive as a stay-alone entity. It is the number one carrier at FLL, accounting for nearly 30% of all traffic; JetBlue, the number two carrier, accounts for 20%.

During an earnings call Feb. 8, Spirit executives took issue with the pessimism of Wall Street analysts, claiming it can survive if the merger does not go through. He accused the analysts of advancing a “misguided narrative.”

Spirit, according to CEO Ted Christie, has increased its liquidity levels to give it “the necessary flexibility to successfully close with JetBlue or to pursue our standalone plans.”

Spirit has already started to reduce flights on off-peak days and has suspended flights from some of its recently launched markets.

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Following the comments, Spirit stock closed at $7.18 on Thursday, an increase of 3.3%.

Mike Diamond is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. He covers Palm Beach County government and transportation. You can reach him at mdiamond@pbpost.com. Help support local journalism. Subscribe today.



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Augusta, GA

RCSO to use new camera system coming to Downtown Augusta

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RCSO to use new camera system coming to Downtown Augusta


“What we want to do is focus on the downtown area because it’s very populated on weekends, a lot of people travel, a lot of people go downtown to enjoy themselves and the entertainment part of it,” said Cpt. Danny Whitehead, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, “One of the goals of Sheriff Roundtree has been to take advantage of technology, we’ve done that the last couple of years and this is one of his next visions.”



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Augusta, GA

More money approved for Diamond Lakes, boat house repairs

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More money approved for Diamond Lakes, boat house repairs


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Getting the long-troubled restrooms up and running at Diamond Lakes Regional Park was a rocky journey.

Even rockier than we knew.

Almost $155,000 was approved Tuesday by the Augusta Commission to pay for more work than was originally planned for the restroom and concession building at the park.

The work was needed to correct a few problems uncovered after the last round of repairs and improvements.

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The problems included vandalism and graffiti, ceiling tiles, pressure washing, painting and a plumbing issue with some drain lines.

The city asked the contractor to go ahead and make the fixes back before the improvements debuted in September. The additional money was approved Tuesday to pay the contractor for that extra work.

A week after the sudden and immediate resignation of Parks and Recreation Director Maurice McDowell – along with his request for three months of “severance” pay – parks and recreation facilities were prominent on Tuesday’s agenda of the commission.

Among them were plans for the troubled Augusta Boat House.

After water pipes broke during a freeze, water gushed out and created damage and a mold infestation that’s brought months of discussion over whether to salvage the building or demolish it and start fresh.

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The commission on Tuesday approved $400,000 to help fix the Augusta Rowing Club’s space and start to renovate parts of the building that need help.

The commission also received options on what the two entryway gates of the Riverwalk may look like with Ed McIntyre’s name on it. The commission recently voted to name the Riverwalk for the former mayor.

Ultimately the commission approved this design Tuesday:

The Augusta Commission approved thsi design for the new Riverwalk signs.(Contributed)

Meanwhile the city’s interim administrator, Takiyah Douse, addressed a mass email sent out by the operator of the Fifth Street Marina.

The marina operator claims the city had the water and power service shut off to the docks, forcing many boat owners to relocate.

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She said a lot of conversation still needs to be had before service is completely shut off. But if that must happen, there would be considerable notice.

She also negated the marina operator’s claim of lack of maintenance.

At Diamond Lakes

The Diamond Lakes repairs and improvements have been welcome to many.

The building has been plagued for years by faulty plumbing, repair delays and vandalism.

The city says the facilities have been an issue for Diamond Lakes going back to when they opened in 2012. Back then, it was just water leakage, but since 2019 leading up to the beginning of 2023, more than $900,000 had already gone into fixing up these buildings that keep on having issues.

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Last February, the Augusta Commission approved another $850,000 in SPLOST 7 and 8 funds as a final fix, bringing that final price tag fix to around $1.75 million.

City officials said from there, the facilities would initially be completed by spring but continued to see delays into the summer. On top of construction delays and piping issues, there was vandalism.

The restrooms opened just in time for the USSSA Military Worlds softball tournament which brought in thousands of veterans from across the country and overseas.



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Augusta, GA

Crime-ridden Augusta businesses could be punished soon

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Crime-ridden Augusta businesses could be punished soon


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Augusta leaders are trying to send a message to crime-ridden businesses: nearby violence can lead to a lost alcohol license.

It was a topic of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Augusta Commission.

In the news for weeks has been Smart Grocery on Wrightsboro Road.

Although it may not be the owner’s fault, there’s been a rash of shootings at the store – at least nine in recent years with two of them fatal.

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The store happens to be near a cluster of high-crime apartment complexes.

Just this past weekend, there was one right around the corner from the store at Fox Trace.

Despite years of working together with the sheriff’s office and recently hiring extra deputies to guard three days a week, shootings continue around Smart Grocery.

A 24/7 solution is too expensive for them to stay afloat.

Smart Grocery property owner, Sae Pak, cited this past weekend’s shooting as an example of how the problem is the apartments, not the store. He said Little Caesars is leaving the small shopping center because of the violence.

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“There are more problems happening around the property, not just our property, surrounding properties. Please. I would challenge any of the commissioners to come down to where we’re at. Spend the day with us. You’ll see exactly what we see. And then tell us how we can fix it,” said Pak.

CSRA CRIME COVERAGE:

The store owner and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office say they’ve been working together to tame the violence, but the Augusta Commission wants to send a message and hold the business owner accountable.

Because the Smart Grocery item was labeled as “discussion” at Tuesday’s meeting and the store owners need to be given a longer notice for action, the matter is coming back before the commission in two weeks with a recommendation for six months of probation.

This wave of accountability is also coming to the Olive Road convenience store in the Glendale community, as well as Club Rain, owned by Allen Voncelillies, who also owns L9, and he got into trouble over crime there.

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Commissioner Jordan Johnson said: “If you take their license away for a year, I mean, that’s his livelihood, that’s his family’s livelihood. Just like we said with the other folks. It’s their livelihood, it’s family’s livelihood. We need to make this decision off of some type of equal standard.”

At Tuesday’s meeting of the commission, deputies and Voncelillies discussed the revocation of the alcohol license for Club Climax. Deputies are even pressing to potentially close their doors altogether.

While Voncelillies was already on probation for the Level 9 club, he says he was not on Probation for Club Rain and was given no warning about the accusations against his business about a fatal shooting that happened there.

There was a heated back-and-forth discussion in which each side accused the other of not stating facts correctly, such as where the shooting took place.

Commissioners are now looking at 6-month probations for all three of these spots.

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We caught up with Smart Grocery after today’s meeting and they say they’re even willing to offer a sheriff’s office substation next door to combat the shootings.



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