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City responds to Columbia airport concerns

The city confirmed Monday afternoon that it is closing the runway at Columbia Regional Airport for a week starting Tuesday for emergency construction.

Interim City Manage John Glascock held a press conference at the airport t o talk about concerns expressed by the regional airline partners who fly into and out of Columbia for American Airlines and United Airlines. He said the runway would reopen April 16 and airlines could begin using it that day, though he said some might wait until April 17 to start flying again out of Columbia.

American carriers’ flights will resume after the closure, the airline said Monday morning. The airline said it is offering re-accommodation for free or refunds.

“All American Airlines flights will be canceled through Monday, April 15. We anticipate arrivals to COU the evening of April 15,” an unnamed spokesperson for American wrote in an email reponse to questions from ABC 17 News.

United also said earlier Monday that it would temporarily suspend the operations of some of its partners until April 15.

“United Express partners SkyWest and Air Wisconsin will temporarily suspend operations,” a spokesperson with the airline company wrote in an email. “We anticipate flights to COU to resume the evening of Monday, April 15, and have a travel waiver policy in place for our customers who are traveling to or from the airport.”

Glascock confirmed the closure, apologizing at the news conference to the public, airport users and the airlines. He said the first concerns about the airport were brought to the city over the weekend by pilots.

Some flights were canceled over the weekend and again Monday.

On Saturday, airport manager Mike Parks said in a news release that regional carriers including SkyWest, Mesa Airlines and Envoy Air were suspending operations. SkyWest operates as a regional carrier for United Airlines and Mesa Airlines and Envoy Air operate as a carrier for American Airlines.

American Airlines flights to and from Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago were canceled Monday. The United Airlines flight to Denver was also canceled.

Glascock said Sunday and again Monday that the airlines had worries about the “crown” where runway 2-20 intersects runway 13-31. The crown helps drain water off the runway but can cause the feeling of hitting a bump on takeoff or landing, Glascock said..

Runway 13-31 was built in 2017 in anticipation of the closure of runway 2-20 for rehabilitation, which began April 1. Glascock held the news conference after discussions about the crown issue and how to remove or reduce the structure with the airlines.

The airlines said over the weekend that the decision to stop flying came from the regional carriers, who cited safety issues with runway 13-31. City officials said the runway has met all regulatory requirements and the airlines had signed off on its use ahead of time.

Passengers used the airport more than 16,000 times in January and again in February, according to figures provided by the airport. March numbers have not been released.

Check back for more on this developing story.

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