COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
American Airlines resumed direct flights between Chicago and Columbia and added a third flight between Columbia and Dallas/Fort Worth on Thursday.
American had already offered two flights between Columbia and Dallas/Fort Worth and United Airlines had also offered direct flights between Columbia and Chicago.
Airport manager Mike Parks said American will now have three daily direct flights to Dallas and one daily to Chicago.
Air carriers had reduced their flights at Columbia Regional Airport during the pandemic as fewer people traveled. However, air travel has increased nationwide since that time. A year ago about 140,000 people went through TSA checkpoints, compared to more than 1.2 million on Wednesday.
The Columbia airport logged 7,532 passengers in March, which was down by about 39% from the year before.
Parks said air travel is picking up and the airport to continue expanding flights to more major cities.
Columbia resident Brian Allen was using the direct flight to Dallas on Wednesday to travel home for Mother's Day.
Allen said getting vaccinated and wearing a mask is making traveling for vacations and trips to see loved ones safer. He said having the option available 15 minutes away from his house is more convenient than having to travel to St. Louis or Kansas City.
Parks said United Airlines is also looking to resume direct flights between Columbia and Denver if the demand is present later this year.
Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said having more flight options will help Mid-Missouri's economy after a difficult year during the pandemic.
"Whether it be business tourism, for sports events or the university, people have more options to be able to get here," McCormick said. He said he's spoken to businesses, restaurants and hotels that are excited about the expansion.
The airport is also working to build a new terminal to have more flight options to Chicago, Dallas, Denver and Charlotte. The terminal is set to open in late spring to early summer of 2022.