City manager wants to see second destination for flights from Columbia airport

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 | 7:42 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — City Manager Mike Matthes said during a radio talk show Monday that he hopes Columbia Regional Airport will offer flights to a second destination by summer.

Right now, passengers flying out of Columbia Regional Airport must go to Memphis in order to board connecting flights to other destinations. City officials for years have coveted a second destination. Matthes discussed the subject briefly on "Intersection," a talk show broadcast live on KBIA-91.3 FM.

"I'd love to say it's going to happen this summer, so I will," Matthes said in response to a question about new flights from "Intersection" host Reuben Stern. "... That's what we're shooting for. I think all the tumblers are in place. We just have to, you know, make it happen."

Asked which cities any new flights might target, Matthes said he wouldn't be "picky."

"At this point, we'll take Chicago, Dallas or Denver," he said.

Matthes said changes in the airline industry have created a climate in which those sorts of destinations have become more feasible.

"The demand for those locations is clear," he said. "They have space available (because) airlines have scaled back, and there are planes available."

Delta Air Lines currently offers a morning and an evening flight to Memphis each day Sunday through Friday. It had previously offered three flights per day, but decided in the fall that it would eliminate mid-day flights in the winter, in part to combat the high cost of jet fuel.

The Memphis flights have proved popular since Delta Air Lines began them in August 2008. It began the flights under an Essential Air Service contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation that provided a $2.2 million annual subsidy. That marked the first time that passengers could fly commercial jets from Columbia to anywhere other than St. Louis or Kansas City.

When Delta renewed its contract in 2010, however, it announced it would no longer require that subsidy.

Delta also replaced its Saab 340 jets, which seated 34 passengers, with 50-seat Canadair Regional Jets in 2010.

The comments from Matthes about a second flight destination came during a larger conversation about the potential expansion of the airport and a renovation of its terminal building. The city is looking to raise its lodging tax in order to fund an expansion of the airport.

Mike Kelly, general manager of Stoney Creek Inn and a board member for the Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association, appeared on the program to outline his opposition to a higher lodging tax.

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Joy Mayer January 25, 2012 | 9:42 a.m.

Where would you most like to be able to fly straight from Columbia. We in the newsroom would love to know what you hope will happen.

Joy Mayer
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Andy Schuette January 25, 2012 | 9:55 a.m.

Denver! Getting over Kansas would be awesome, and getting to Denver in less than 10 hours would be even sweeter!

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer January 25, 2012 | 10:11 a.m.

Thanks, @Andy.

What we're hearing on Facebook and Twitter:
— Denver (or somewhere else west)
— Lots of votes for Dallas
— Atlanta
— Sarasota (my personal unlikely favorite) or Tampa
— Chicago
— Tulsa

Do you guys use the airport now? Would a second destination make you more likely to use it?

Joy Mayer
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 25, 2012 | 10:36 a.m.

Joy asks, "Would a second destination make you more likely to use it?"


For me, the "second destination" question is...well...secondary.

My primary motivation is cost. If it costs me more to fly out of Columbia than it does to drive myself or take Mo-X or whatever, I won't fly out of Columbia.

I don't fly a lot, but when I do I always check KCMO, StL, and Columbia. So far, Columbia costs have exceeded KCMO and STL by a significant amount, i.e., hundreds of dollars.

In the event costs happened to be identical, then time/reliability become my motivation.

(Report Comment)
Nick Jungman January 25, 2012 | 10:59 a.m.

Unless COU adds a new airline, your second destination is going to be to a Delta hub city. That means Atlanta or Minneapolis, most likely. Going west, the choice is Salt Lake, but that seems like a long-shot.

Ideally, you attract United/Continental, which would open up Chicago, Denver or Houston.

(Report Comment)
terry Bura January 26, 2012 | 3:29 p.m.

The City of Columbia is a day dreamer. COST, COST, COST. We continue to extend our runway and where are the big planes let alone a pay back. I am a single person, how about the city build me a 5 bedroom house, I might need it someday. It would intersting to see our debt ratio from the last city manger to where our current manager has led us. The most visable is the parking garages that are sprouting up. By the way when will my house be done?


(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 26, 2012 | 4:14 p.m.

I am about like Michael when I fly for personal reasons. I love the convenience of the drive up parking and easy security check at the local airport (It is pretty sweet deal compared to the hassles of KC or St Louis if you have not flown out of Columbia...) but I am too cheap or not wealthy enough to justify these benefits to myself when I look at the costs.

Flying for business is another matter. Then time becomes much more of an issue. I think Memphis already serves the southeast connections pretty well. Seems like Denver or Chicago would make the most sense to compliment the existing Memphis connections.

(Report Comment)
Scott Dart January 27, 2012 | 10:26 a.m.

For those of you who are saying you're "too cheap or not wealthy enough" to use CoMo's airport, you aren't checking it each time.

I've taken three trips in the past three months. All of the fares were comparable ($20 difference or less) to fly to my destinations than were the fares from STL or MCI. In one case, the fare from COU was actually cheaper! If you're not checking it out each time, you're not doing anyone a favor.

I hope Delta continues to do well. I've thought for a long time that what they ought to do, instead of connecting in Memphis, is having flights to Detroit and possibly maybe one or two a day to/from Salt Lake. Memphis is closing. No one's saying that publicly yet, but mark my words, it's only a matter of time before DL will announce they're eliminating Memphis as a hub. Detroit would offer more options and provide easy connections to the northeast. Salt Lake would provide easy connections to the western part of the US (LAX, SFO, PDX, SEA).

Atlanta will never happen. There aren't any open slots in Atlanta, so in order to go to Atlanta directly from COU, they'd have to eliminate service to someplace they're already serving.

It's exciting to hear that there might be another choice. American would do really well since they serve both Chicago and Dallas, and those are the two cities identified by our (Columbia's) studies as the most popular destinations.

Not too excited about the prospect of United going to Denver from here...

Maybe Southwest would be interested in landing 737's here and going straight to MDW or DAL... but I doubt it. They're too committed to STL as "the closest thing to a hub that Southwest has."

Interesting to see who's gonna be the second airline at Columbia Regional.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield January 27, 2012 | 11:47 a.m.

Every time I've compared COU to STL or MCI, the latter two always were cheaper by a wide margin simply because Southwest's pricing is so competitive, including not having to pay for baggage. Unless COU adds Southwest, STL and MCI will continue to have a pricing advantage for many passengers.

(Report Comment)
Mike Kosher January 27, 2012 | 12:22 p.m.

I fly quite often for work and having to go through MEM is becoming problematic. MEM airport is losing more and more Delta flights...take a look at the Cincinnati airport - they are a "hub" for Delta, but that airport is a sad shell of itself. For COU to continue to prosper, one (if not two) new destinations and at least one new regional carrier needs to be added. ATL or Detroit would be great for a new Delta route. SWA will never come to a market like COU; American has failed here before and unless they developed a COU-DFW route, they'd probably fail again. Best options would be United/Continental route to Houston Bush or an airline like Allegiant Air, who flies to markets like Orlando and Vegas.

One other thing to consider...with MU moving to the SEC, more visiting teams' fans will want to come here and they are coming from the south...routes to/from places such as Denver would probably not be extremely beneficial.

Personally, I think that COU is very price-competitive compared to STL or MCI, especially when you take all costs into play, i.e. parking, wifi, gas to get there, time saved.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield January 27, 2012 | 1:28 p.m.

"I think that COU is very price-competitive compared to STL or MCI, especially when you take all costs into play, i.e. parking, wifi, gas to get there, time saved."

I've found just the opposite. Let's say that two flights out of COU and STL are equally priced. If I fly Delta out of COU, and I have one bag, that's an extra $50 round trip. If I fly SW out of STL, my bag is free, but I'll pay for parking at $6/day for a far-out lot, plus another $25 for gas round trip. Unless I'm parked longer than four days, flying out of COU isn't saving me any money.

Now suppose that my wife is flying with me, or that I have multiple bags, or both. That's where STL pulls way ahead because my parking and gas costs don't increase, and my baggage savings increases.

Or suppose that I'm traveling on business. STL has an edge there, too, because the mileage to and from Lambert is a tax write-off.

(Report Comment)
Mike Kosher January 27, 2012 | 3:42 p.m.

If you do a true comparison of fares on similar carriers between COU, STL, and MCI (Delta, United, USAir, American), COU is competitive. However, if you bring SWA into the equation, they'll most likely trump other airlines due to their no baggage fees. In that case, STL and MCI will always have the price advantage over COU.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield January 27, 2012 | 4:26 p.m.

"However, if you bring SWA into the equation, they'll most likely trump other airlines due to their no baggage fees. In that case, STL and MCI will always have the price advantage over COU."

Exactly. And that's the big hurdle: COU is just a couple of hours' drive from two airports that have so many SW flights that they're practically mini hubs for SW.

(Report Comment)

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