Starting Aug. 1, the Columbia Regional Airport is adding a new destination to its repertoire. Customers are already being encouraged to book flights starting then.
United Airlines is set to offer a new, daily flight to Denver International Airport as well as two additional flights to Chicago O’Hare.
“Currently the planes are slated to be a CRJ200, that’s a Canada Regional jet,” said Andrew Bell, United Airlines sales manager for Missouri. “It will seat 50 people on each flight so it’ll be 50 people going to Denver, 100 people going to Chicago.”
American Airlines is currently the only airliner at the airport, providing daily flights to Chicago and Dallas.
City manager Mike Matthes said Monday that customers have been requesting more western United States destinations and flights.
Mayor Brian Treece said he believes the airport can continue to be a “catalyst” for the local economy. The city and county are currently working on a deal to bring Aurora Organic Dairy to Columbia to build a processing plant. The plant could provide up to 150 new jobs. The dairy corporation is based in Platteville, Colorado.
“Our latest jobs announcement with Aurora Organic Dairy, in conjunction with this new connection between Denver and Columbia Regional Airport, sends a clear message that Columbia and Boone County and mid-Missouri is a great place to expand, relocate, grow and invest,” said Treece.
City leaders also said Monday they hope market competition between two airline carriers will encourage a price drop in flights.
“Adding two additional flights to Chicago is clearly going to give consumers more choices when it comes to schedule, but also choice of seats,” said Treece. “I think adding the total number of seats on those two Chicago legs is only going to enhance price competitiveness for consumers.”
This announcement comes just months after Columbia voters passed a one-percent hotel tax increase to provide $10 million to pay for improvements to the city’s aging terminal. Currently, the terminal building is the same size and look as it was when it was first built in the 1970s.
The addition of the new United flights would bring the terminal to its full flight capacity.
The airport will be making renovations to the ticket counter in the meantime to accommodate the new airline, as well as adding a temporary gravel parking lot but Matthes said if the city wants to add more flights, carriers or destinations, the terminal needs to be redone.
“With this success, there’s still unserved market,” said Matthes. “There’s room to grow. The pinch in the pipeline right now is the terminal.”
Treece said he believes customers are hoping to see additional flights to Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta or Phoenix.
Jefferson City mayor Carrie Tergin was also present for the announcement Monday morning to show support from the Capitol City.
The city council must vote on the partnership between COU and United Airlines so a bill will come before council next Monday night and a public hearing will be scheduled.