Spirit Airlines announced Wednesday it will start a daily route from Atlantic City International Airport to Atlanta beginning May 17, a location the airport lost in January when its other carrier pulled out of the region.

Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said the Miramar, Fla.-based airline does not speak to why it selects specific markets. But the Atlanta location had a two-year history with AirTran, which was acquired by Southwest Airlines in May. 

Citing high fuel costs and the economy, AirTran stopped its flights locally on Jan. 6, several months after a subsidy agreement with the South Jersey Transportation Authority expired. SJTA spokeswoman Sharon Gordon said Spirit is not receiving subsidies for the new route.

“They’ve been invested in this market for a long time, they understand it and we’re looking forward to helping them continue to expand here in Atlantic City,” Gordon said.

“Hopefully as we can expand more service from Spirit and attract more airlines and keep them here and build that shoulder season, that’s a win-win for the airport, the airline and certainly Atlantic City,” Gordon said.

Spirit said its Atlanta flights would be seasonal. The same aircraft will continue to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Meanwhile, Spirit also announced it will resume daily seasonal service between Atlantic City and Boston on March 1 and daily seasonal service to Detroit and to Chicago’s O’Hare on May 3.

For the past month, Spirit was the only regular carrier at the Egg Harbor Township airport. 

Starting today, Margate-based Gold Transportation, a charter air service, will start a weekly Florida Flights route from the local airport to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

For 2011, there were slightly less than 1.4 million total passengers, including scheduled and charter services, at Atlantic City International Airport, a decline of about 2 percent from a record year in 2010, Gordon said.

Gordon attributed the drop to Spirit closing several flights for maintenance in the fall, which represented about 1,735 seats a day, Gordon said.

From Atlantic City International Airport, Spirit currently flies to Myrtle Beach, S.C. and five locations in Florida.

One of those flights, which heads twice a day to Fort Myers, Fla., was delayed nearly seven hours Tuesday evening before finally departing shortly before 11 p.m.

The flight, which was scheduled to depart at 4:15 p.m. for Southwest Florida International Airport, instead actually left at 10:48 p.m., according to FlightStats, which tracks airlines’ on-time performance.

Many passengers waited in the terminal — or left in their cars and returned later — as the scheduled departure time was delayed five times, said passenger Linda Ake, of Mullica Hill.

“Don’t get me wrong. Things happen. I was not angry because I was delayed. I was angry at the way they handled it,” she said.

Ake said Spirit offered passengers a chance to rebook the flight, but the next flight with open seats was not available until today, two days later.

The flight eventually departed; Ake said she got off the plane in Florida early Wednesday morning.

Ten Spirit flights left the Egg Harbor Township airport on Tuesday; FlightStats reported eight were on time and one was 24 minutes late.

Contact Brian Ianieri:

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