Federal subsidies for Macon-Atlanta air flights could end next year because fewer than three people a day board flights at Macon's airport.
That's according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation to Mayor Robert Reichert.
This comes as the federal agency decides between two airlines that want to run service between Macon and Atlanta.
Both airlines are asking for federal subsidies of more than $1.5 million a year.
The service is eligible for subsidy because the federal government classifies Macon-Atlanta service as "essential air service."
But that could end within a year because ridership on flights to Atlanta is so low.
In 2008, the federal Department of Transportation picked Georgia Skies to run the Macon-Atlanta service.
The airline has run those flights without federal dollars for the past two years, but notified the agency this spring that they plan to end service this year.
Two companies have filed bids to replace Georgia Skies, but are asking for federal funds to help pay for their flights.
American Aviation Group, a company based in West Palm Beach, American Aviation Group, says it wants to run six flights a day between Macon and Atlanta. They're asking for $1,555,825 in federal subsidies.
Based on the number of people who flew to and from Atlanta -- 1,988 -- that's a subsidy of $782 per passenger.
Sun Air Express, a company based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wants to run four flights on weekdays to and from Atlanta.
They're asking for $1,946,266 in federal money -- that's $979 a passenger, based on last year's ridership.
The federal order requesting bids does not say when the Department of Transportation will pick a new airline.
The agency asked Macon Mayor Robert Reichert to comment on the choice.
But the letter says that new federal rules mean Macon may no longer be eligible for the Essential Air Service subsidies.
Those rules say an airport is not eligible unless at least 10 people a day board flights there. Just over 900 people boarded Atlanta-bound flights last year in Macon, less than three a day.
Reichert has not responded to the Department of Transportation letter.
Check back with 13WMAZ.com for updates on this story today.
PDFs OF GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS ABOUT MACON-ATL FLIGHTS