COLUMBIA — Starting Thursday, Delta Air Lines will use a 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet 100 for the first flight out of Columbia Regional Airport and the last flight in* each day.
The move reflects a growing number of passengers boarding flights with Mesaba, the Delta subsidiary that provides air service at the airport.
The 9 p.m. flight into Columbia from Memphis International Airport and the 6 a.m. flight out are the most popular, especially among business travelers, said Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Works Department.
She said that 2009 was a successful year for the airport and attributed that to Delta's changes. Each month, between 70 percent and 80 percent of the flights were filled to capacity, Stedem said. When Delta originally bid on the service, it said it would need to fill at least 42 percent of the flights to be successful.
"Delta is providing exceptional service," Stedem said.
Airport manager Kathy Frerking said the goal with the regional jets is to accommodate more customers.
"The airline (Delta) saw a need and filled it for us," Frerking said.
The upgrade also is part of Delta's plan to phase out the Saab 340, a model with only 34 seats, Stedem said.
The Canadair jet files at speeds exceeding 500 mph with a cruising altitude of 41,000 feet and has a range of more than 1,200 miles.