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American, US Airways Merging

***UPDATE 8:08 P.M.***American airlines began flying out of Columbia Regional Airport Thursday afternoon. An American Eagle plane, full of passengers, took off for Chicago around 2:30 p.m. followed by two flights to Dallas. Local representatives celebrated the new partnership at the airport Thursday, and both sides of the agreement say they are thrilled about today’s events. Gregory Moreno has never been to Columbia before, but flew in Thursday afternoon for business. “We got to Dallas and they said, oh this is the inaugural flight, and they had cake and coffee and passed out the little certificate,” Moreno said, “it was wonderful.” American Airlines’ Manager of Market Development, Brett Hooyerink says Moreno’s response is a common one, to the airline’s new non-stop flights to Chicago and Dallas. “We’ve had a great overwhelming response from the community — the flights are full,” Hooyerink said, “we couldn’t be happier.” Hooyerink says the airline liked the idea of expanding in mid-Missouri because of population that includes many students eager to fly to Chicago, and thriving business between the area and Dallas. “We saw there was a need for extended air service in this region of Missouri,” Hooyerink said. “We saw the need and the community rose to the occasion.” Executive Vice President of Columbia’s Chamber of Commerce, Kristi Ray said, “getting Dallas and Chicago is incredible, it’s where our travelers want to go.” Ray and Hooyerink both say there is plenty of room for even more expansion, but there’s progress to be made before looking at adding any additional flights or destinations. Hooyerink said, “if we continue at the rate we’re going, I could see good things in store for the community.” “Anybody you ask, everybody has a different idea of what comes next,” Ray said. “As long as those flights are full, then we can talk to them about other destinations, but we have to prove, in mid-Missouri, that we want them there.” Delta airlines flew out of Columbia for the last time Wednesday, severing their service agreement after discovering the better deal given to American Airlines. Ray says it is a shame, but still thinks mid-Missouri is better off with the new partnership. When city leaders announced the deal with American in the fall of 2012, Ray says they began working on how to welcome the new airline to town — even at the cost of losing Delta. “There’s no doubt we would’ve loved to have kept [Delta] as well,” Ray said Thursday, “but again we’re not sorry to see what American has brought us.””The most important thing to us is to get people on those flights, that’s first and foremost,” Ray added. American Airlines reports that flights through the Columbia Regional Airport are booked for the next few weeks. American will offer one daily flight to Chicago, leaving Columbia at 1:55 p.m. and two daily flights to Dallas, departing Columbia at 6:45 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. Regarding the merger between US Airways and American Airlines, analysts say it will result in higher fares. We checked ticket prices out of Columbia for three weeks in advance: a round-trip to Dallas will cost almost $400, and a round-trip to Chicago will cost almost $500. ***ORIGINAL STORY***American Airlines and US Airways announced a merger Thursday morning, a deal valued at $11 billion according to both companies.The merger will create the world’s biggest airline, and reduce the number of major U.S. carriers to four: American, Delta, United and Southwest. The combined carrier will be called American Airlines but will be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker.According to the airline, American Airlines will have 86 daily departures from airports in Missouri, including three from Columbia Regional Airport.American Airlines also starts flights from Columbia to Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago Thursday. Two flights will go to Dallas each day, one to Chicago. It’s unclear how the merger could affect those flights, if at all.

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