COMMUTER AIRLINES AT ATLANTA DURING THE 1980s
Atlanta saw enormous growth in commuter airline traffic in the first decade of deregulation as Delta, Eastern, Republic and Piedmont discontinued service to small cities across the southeast. As the major airlines abandoned short-haul markets, the commuters would quickly move in to fill the gaps. Here's a look back at some of the commuter airlines that served Atlanta during the 1980s.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines was Atlanta's largest commuter airline through the entire decade of the 1980s and benefited from becoming a Delta Connection carrier in 1984. Bandeirante N401AS is pictured at concourse D circa 1981.
Southeastern Commuter Airlines operated Dove Rileys between Atlanta, Auburn and Rome, GA during the early 1980s.
Southeastern Commuter became Southeastern Airlines in 1982 and expanded to serve over a dozen destinations. The airline was merged into ASA on April 1, 1983. GAF Nomad N4816C is pictured at the concourse C commuter gate 2.
Pinehurst operated YS-11s at Atlanta between June 1981 and January 1982 on flights to Greenville / Spartanburg and Huntsville.
North Carolina-based Sunbird Airlines flew between Atlanta and numerous points in North and South Carolina during the first half of the 1980s. Sunbird was renamed CC Air in 1986.
Atlanta Express operated Shorts 330s and DHC-7 Dash 7s between Atlanta and Anniston, Macon, Hilton Head, Columbus, GA and Florence, SC during 1982 and 1983. After a year of continued financial losses, Atlanta Express was merged into Sunbird Airlines in 1983.
Atlantis Airlines flew between Atlanta and points across Georgia and the Carolinas beginning in 1981.
Atlantic Gulf began service at Atlanta in late 1983 with nonstops to St. Petersburg, FL with direct service to and from Miami. The airline flew vintage Vickers Viscounts and Convair 580s and eventually added BAC 1-11 jets to their fleet before shutting down in 1986.
This former Frontier Airlines Convair 580 in Air Florida Commuter colors is shown in service with Atlantic Gulf at concourse D at ATL in 1984.
Eastern Metro Express was formed in 1984 to feed traffic from small communities across the south into Eastern's Atlanta hub, competing directly with ASA's Delta Connection flights.
Trans Southern Airways served Atlanta from Florence, SC in late 1984 and early 1985.
Atlantis Airlines operated commuter flights for Eastern Air Lines beginning in April 1985.
With the success of recent affiliations between commuter and major airlines, Sunbird and Piedmont began a code-share partnership in May 1985. Sunbird's Beech 99 N72138 is seen in Piedmont Commuter colors at ATL in 1985.
A lineup of ASA planes on the crowded ATL ramp in 1988. By this time, ASA was 3rd only to Delta and Eastern in numbers of passengers boarded at Atlanta. Photo by George Hamlin.
A pair of Eastern Metro Express Dash 8s on the Atlanta ramp in 1988. Eastern Metro was ranked 4th in total passengers boarded at ATL during the late 80s. Note the Delta DC-8-71 on short final at left. Photo by George Hamlin.