COLUMBIA — Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said conversations with airline providers about bringing a second travel destination from the Columbia Regional Airport will begin in the next few weeks.
The news comes after comments from City Manager Mike Matthes made on "Intersection," a talk show broadcast live on KBIA-91.3 FM, that the airport could have a second destination in summer 2012.
We asked our social media communities where they'd like to be able to fly from Columbia. Here are their responses.
From our Twitter followers:
@emilpatrick: It needs to be an airport with international connections, no fun switching 2 or 3 flights to get out of the country.
@tron jordheim @CoMissourian DFW or DEN or PHX
@queenofBLAH: somewhere out west; maybe Denver, Albuquerque or Phoenix?
@mrmcculloch: Dallas for sure, seems like every flight I take wants to connect there, would be super nice to just fly there from Columbia
@HashtagDarell: DIA. 10th busiest airport in the world, most non-stop flights to Asia--will serve #CoMo as a much needed gateway to the west
@saxxykittn: Chicago or Dallas. Either of those would be a lot more convenient than Memphis.
@cgothner: Sarasota. For ~$99. If only.#inmydreams RT @CoMissourian
From our Facebook followers
Sara Rosenkoetter: Denver would be nice *from Colorado*
Corey Parks: Tampa. So we don’t have to keep driving to Springfield.
Bob Wessler: Tulsa or Dallas-Fort Worth
Joe Ringbauer: Chicago!
Brad Ferguson: DFW
John Springli: I would use the airport if Denver or Chicago was added. Right now, though, Memphis does not cut it for me.
St. Romaine said Matthes' approach will be to talk to airline providers during the next several weeks about adding a destination.
"We'd like to see at least one, maybe two, additional destinations soon," St. Romaine said. "Either Dallas or Chicago would be great. Those are the two destinations on the table right now."
Gregory Cecil, chairman of the Airport Advisory Board, said that having a second destination by the summer is feasible.
"You got to have a goal," St. Romaine said. "We'll know more definitely when we start having conversations."
St. Romaine said the fact that Delta Air Lines will be reinstating its midday flight to Memphis is a positive sign. The midday flight is the third daily flight out of the Columbia Regional Airport.
"It shows that the area and this airport can be profitable," he said.
Cecil said that when looking for flights to Dallas, American Airlines is also a possible choice, but that there are other airlines out there as well.
"Whether it's Delta or another airline, I think the key is finding another hub, preferably an international hub," St. Romaine said. "That would benefit the area in terms of both incoming and outgoing traffic."
St. Romaine said the biggest obstacle in prior attempts to secure other destinations and carriers has been the concern on the part of the airlines that there was a substantial risk of not turning a profit.
St. Romaine said airport traffic has risen in the past few years and that if an airline would look at the potential of Columbia, it would be a win-win situation.
"The airport is doing well, but the goal is to be doing better, to be a bigger market," Cecil said. "One thing that handicaps us is that we don't have the capacity to handle a large increase in traffic. We're currently looking at ways to expand the facilities."
"One obstacle is that the terminal in terms of size is limited, where 50 people feels crowded," St. Romaine said. "If we were to secure another airline, they would want to see that the terminal and facilities would be upgraded."
St. Romaine said there is currently a $17 million proposal to expand the main airport terminal. He said he thinks making that commitment will help encourage other carriers to come to Columbia.
St. Romaine said Mayor Bob McDavid will be a big factor in conversations and that he will be playing a role in negotiations alongside Matthes.
"The mayor wants to increase the market share," Cecil said. "I'm excited that he's out there leading the charge."