Charter carrier to fly to Hartsfield-Jackson from Lincoln, Nebraska

Credit: Charlie Neibergall

Credit: Charlie Neibergall

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta Air Lines stopped flying to Lincoln, Nebraska. Now a charter flight operator plans to launch new flights from the Nebraska capital to Atlanta and other cities, as the Lincoln Airport looks to replace the lost air service.

Charter brand Red Way plans to offer two flights a week, on Mondays and Fridays, between Hartsfield-Jackson International and Lincoln starting June 16. It will be one of seven routes on Airbus A320 or A321 jets to be launched by Red Way, in partnership with the Lincoln Airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson is working to determine what gate the flights will use.

The Lincoln Airport is one of a number of small airports that have lost air service in recent years as Delta, United and American Airlines have cut regional jet service to smaller communities.

The Red Way venture is a unique effort by the Lincoln Airport Authority to restore some air service.

The Nebraska airport took a hit when Atlanta-based Delta discontinued service to Lincoln during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta last flew to Lincoln in January 2022. Passenger counts at the Lincoln Airport were down 26% early this year compared with 2019 levels, “completely due to the absence of Delta,” according to minutes from a Lincoln Airport Authority meeting.

Now, the Lincoln Airport’s only regular scheduled airline service is on United Express, with flights to Denver, Houston and Chicago.

Red Way also plans to launch flights from Lincoln to Austin and Dallas, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Nashville, Tennessee and Orlando, Florida, with flights operated by charter carrier Global Crossing Airlines’ subsidiary GlobalX Air Tours LLC.

Delta has significantly cut back its Delta Connection regional jet flying in recent years, and contract regional carriers have been struggling with pilot shortages. Delta also plans to stop using smaller 50-seat regional jets this year, replacing them with larger aircraft with first class seats.

Efforts to improve efficiency by shifting to larger jets also means those jets are often too large to fill with the number of passengers going to and from smaller towns.

The Lincoln Airport Authority has an agreement to use federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for financial incentives to expand air service, and has an air service incentive program, according to an agenda for its March meeting.

“Bringing an operator to LNK (Lincoln Airport) who is dedicated to providing service for our community will enable us to create new jobs and opportunities while making air travel easy and convenient for the people of Nebraska,” said David Haring, executive director of the Lincoln Airport Authority, in a written statement.

Other small charter operators have launched flights to Atlanta over the years, with many of them struggling to gain enough traction among travelers to fill planes consistently.