COLUMBIA — City Council voted unanimously Monday night to recommend Mesaba Aviation Inc., which would fly to Memphis, as its preferred airline to fly out of Columbia’s airport.
The council’s choice matched opinions expressed during the public hearing. Residents said they were in favor of Memphis because it’s a hub offering more connections than Kansas City.
Columbia resident Mike Naughton said he recommends Mesaba also because the company owns bigger planes and offers a higher chance of a direct connection once the plane reached Memphis.
Byron Hill, a Columbia resident, also spoke in favor of Mesaba.
“I would like to see Columbia in an engagement with a hub city,” Hill said.
David Rosman, a member of the Airport Advisory Board, reiterated that he was not speaking on behalf of the board when he spoke in support of Mesaba at the meeting.
The Airport Advisory Board split its support between Mesaba and Great Lakes Aviation at its April 2 meeting.
But Rosman said Mesaba was a good choice, warning that past failures enforce any air carrier’s need to emphasize promotion, or getting more people to the airport.
“We need to promote the airport from within at the colleges, the downtown business and the Chamber of Commerce to make Columbia a destination,” Rosman said. “We need to be diligent in promotion.”
No one spoke on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, the Special Business District, colleges or universities at the meeting.
Mesaba Aviation, also recommended by city staff, would offer three round-trip flights per day between Columbia and Memphis International airports, if it’s chosen by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Although the final decision of air carriers rests on the U.S. Department of Transportation, it will be accepting and considering the input of Columbia and that of the other communities involved.
The fact that Memphis is a hub won over the council, even though Mesaba is the most expensive choice, seeking an annual subsidy of nearly $2.2 million from the federal government.
“I am excited with Mesaba and see no reason to play the game with Kansas City and St. Louis anymore,” Fourth Ward Council Member Jerry Wade said. “We would have a direct flight to a hub, which is what we have wanted.”
Mayor Darwin Hindman was also enthusiastic about Mesaba’s proposal. “It is different than what we have had,” Hindman said. “So far everything we have tried hasn’t worked.”
The Department of Transportation also received bids from Great Lakes Aviation and Hawaii Island Air. Both of these air carriers would have offered daily flights to Kansas City.
Mesaba’s three flights to Memphis from Columbia, which would be about an hour and a half each, will depart at 5:54 a.m., 11:25 a.m. and 4:25 p.m. Flights to Columbia from Memphis will be at 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. The cost of a ticket would be around $95.