Delta to cut midday flights from Columbia Regional for winter

Thursday, September 22, 2011 | 12:27 p.m. CDT; updated 4:29 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 22, 2011

COLUMBIA — Delta Air Lines will temporarily eliminate its midday service between Columbia Regional Airport and Memphis International Airport from December until February.

Delta offers three flights per day for passengers to get back and forth between Columbia and Memphis. The morning and evening flights will continue throughout the winter.

Spokesman Trebor Banstetter wrote in an email that the decision to eliminate the midday flight was because of budget constraints and concerns about the number of fliers.

“It coincides with the slowest travel time of the year, and we typically reduce our flying during the winter,” he wrote. “In addition, we’re doing some extra flight reductions worldwide this year due to the high cost of jet fuel.”

This is the first time Delta has cut its services to Columbia since it started flying from the airport in 2008, said Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Works Department. The reduction in flights comes at a time when the airport is having its best year in more than a decade, according to airport records.

Airport Advisory Board member B.J. Hunter was surprised by Delta's decision.

“I don't really understand the logic behind it,” he said. He hopes the loss of the flight will not affect the number of people who use the airport.

Although the number of people using the airport has increased by about 9 percent in the past year, Delta's business has dropped.

Total domestic traffic decreased 1.8 percent during the past year, according to a press release by the company.

All three Memphis flights are popular, Stedem said. The morning and evening ones are typically full, while midday usually has slightly fewer passengers.

Despite the decreased numbers Delta experiences during December and January, the airport continues to remain busy throughout the winter months, Stedem said.

“We're hoping that it's just temporary and that things will pick up (for Delta) in 2012,” she said. “We're at the mercy of the airlines. We're just one small community they serve.”

Stedem said Delta's cutback should not have much effect on the airport's plans to increase service. Airport officials will keep seeking new destinations and new carriers for the future as business climbs.

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