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The Masters is about to turn Augusta's airport into 'organized chaos.' Here's how it gears up for an influx of over 1,500 private jets.

Pete Syme   

The Masters is about to turn Augusta's airport into 'organized chaos.' Here's how it gears up for an influx of over 1,500 private jets.
  • Augusta Regional Airport sees nearly five-times as many planes a day than usual during the Masters.
  • Plus it shuts down one of its runways for 300 private jets to park.

With an average of 30,000 passengers a month, Augusta Regional Airport usually sees one-hundredth the number of passengers as Newark Liberty International. But the Georgian airport will see that same number in just one week as the Masters Tournament gets started.

"It's organized chaos to us," Lauren Smith, the airport's assistant director of marketing and public relations, told Business Insider.

"We actually hire additional staff that week. The airlines, TSA, and all of our tenants out here bring in additional people to make sure we have enough to accommodate the influx," she added.

This year's Masters, played at Augusta National, is set to be the busiest yet for Augusta Regional Airport.

More commercial flights than ever before

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines always increase their number of direct flights for the tournament, but compared to last year, the latter has nearly doubled its seat capacity to Augusta.

"In years past, American has always given an influx of direct flights for Masters week," Smith told BI. "Delta has only offered maybe one or two additional flights. However, this year they are matching what American does."

For the first time, passengers will be able to fly with Delta direct to the tournament from Washington, DC, Boston, Austin, JFK, Palm Beach, and Orlando. It's also resuming flights from LaGuardia and Detroit, plus the expanded service from its Atlanta hub.

"Our numbers are going to be very high because of all those additional flights," Smith said. "Normally, the Monday after the Masters is a mass exodus and that's our busiest day, but this year, we think Wednesday and even Thursday are going to be just as busy."

A typical day at Augusta Regional Airport sees 62 planes take off and land, Smith said. During the Masters week, there will be between 100 and 300 planes daily. A FlightAware dashboard dedicated to Masters' flight activity shows a spike in arrivals this week, with already almost 900 landings since Sunday.

But perhaps the most striking change from the usual day-to-day is the expected influx of private aircraft.

Hundreds of private planes will descend upon Augusta

Augusta Regional Airport has two runways but closes one of them down for the Masters so that the private jets can park there.

"We may have up to 300 aircraft parked out here at a given time," Smith said. "Now that changes year over year, because the aircraft, of course, are getting bigger."

According to the Augusta airport's website, it charges anywhere from $125 to $3,000 per plane in landing fees during the Masters, with heavier private jets like a Gulfstream G650 or a Bombardier Global 7500 being the most expensive.

A video from last year put the number into perspective, showing a seemingly endless line of jets filling the runway.

Last year, 1,758 business jets landed at the airport during the seven days of the golf tournament, according to FlightAware. That was over three times as many as the week before the Masters.

The airport has its own fixed-base operator (FBO), which provides services for private jets like fueling, maintenance, and parking.

Data from the aviation-tracking website JetSpy and sent to BI shows golf pros, billionaires, and other celebrities touch down at the 2023 tournament, like Tiger Woods, Luke Bryan, Nike CEO Phil Knight, software titan David Duffield, Carvana founder Ernest Garcia, and private equity investor Greg Mondre.

The aviation analysis firm WingX tracked business jet arrivals at Augusta and at Aiken and Barnwell — two other regional airports just across the state border in South Carolina.

It found that last year, the largest number of business jets arrived from Atlanta — around 140 miles from Augusta — followed by New York City. The most popular aircraft type was the Bombardier Challenger 300, which cost about $10 million.

How Augusta Regional Airport deals with all the Masters fans

In February, the airport had another two jet bridges installed which made the boarding process easier.

"Even outside of the Masters, our airport has received additional grant funds to keep projects on track," Smith told BI.

She said most of the new commercial flights will be operated using the jet bridges. And that the terminal was recently increased by about 1,000 feet.

That will also come in handy as the airport is introducing a new concessionaire to operate a restaurant, gift shop, and bistro.

The influx of passengers also means a need for more cars to collect them from the airport. Smith said some local residents rent larger vehicles for ground transportation, and the airport speaks to ride-hailing services.

"We have contacts with Uber, Lyft, Toro, and make sure that they spread out their geofencing, and actually contact drivers from nearby cities and ask them to come to Augusta."

Once the tournament is finished and the visitors head home, Smith and her coworkers can breathe a sigh of relief. But then it's all about getting ready for next year as well.

"As soon as the Masters ends, we are already setting goals and making initiatives and plans for the following Masters," she said.

"We need to make sure all of our I's are dotted and T's are crossed, because we want to make sure we give the best impression as the gateway to Augusta."