Columbia Regional Airport to offer nonstop flights to Atlanta

Friday, March 2, 2012 | 11:09 a.m. CST; updated 10:28 a.m. CST, Monday, March 5, 2012

This story has been clarified to say that Delta's new flights to Atlanta will replace Delta's mid-day flights to Memphis. Also, a previous report that the Memphis flights marked the first time the airport had offered flights to a destination other than St. Louis or Kansas City was incorrect.

COLUMBIA — Columbia Regional Airport will offer a daily, nonstop midday flight to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in a partnership with Delta Airlines beginning June 7.

Mayor Bob McDavid announced the partnership with Delta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at a news conference Friday morning. According to the Hartsfield-Jackson's website, Atlanta's airport is the busiest in the world, with more than 230 destinations in 53 countries.

Quick facts about the Atlanta airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is both the busiest passenger and operations airport in the world.  It averages almost 2,700 arrivals and departures a day.

The airport serves 151 U.S. destinations and more than 80 international destinations in 52 countries.

Hartsfield-Jackson is located 10 miles from downtown Atlanta. Atlanta is within a two-hour flight of 80 percent of the United States population.

Seventeen mainline passenger airlines service the Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson is the largest employer in the state of Georgia, with over 58,000 employees.

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Flights to Atlanta will leave Columbia at 10:10 a.m. and return at 4:15 p.m. The Atlanta flights will replace existing mid-day flights to Memphis.

McDavid said the Atlanta flights are a first and major step toward what he calls the "40 in 2020" initiative.

"'40 in 2020' means that by the year 2020, Columbia Regional Airport will host 40 percent of all airline travel for mid-Missourians," McDavid said. "We want those 600 mid-Missourians who drive daily to St. Louis Lambert International Airport to instead fly out of Columbia Regional Airport. We want those 300 mid-Missourians who drive daily to Kansas City International Airport to instead fly out of Columbia Regional Airport."

McDavid said the partnership will expand opportunities for international travel.

"You're going to find the world is a whole lot closer," McDavid said.

He also said flights to and from Atlanta will be a good fit for Columbia as the Missouri Tigers prepare to join the Southeastern Conference.

"How's this sound? MIZ-COU," he quipped.

City Manager Mike Matthes said city officials have been working with the Atlanta airport and Delta to establish the new flights for more than a year.

The news conference featured brief remarks from an array of local dignitaries, including state Reps. Mary Still, Chris Kelly and Stephen Webber, state Sen. Ken Schaefer and MU Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Jackie Jones.

Delta already provides three daily flights to and from Memphis International Airport at the Columbia airport. The Memphis flights have proved popular since they began in August 2008.

Delta started the Memphis service under an Essential Air Service contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which provided a $2.2 million annual subsidy.

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

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

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Scott Dart March 2, 2012 | 11:20 a.m.

This is GREAT news for Columbia, mid-Missouri, and for people who haven't tried flying out of Columbia before.

Atlanta is Delta's largest hub, and offers many flights to many locations around the world. It's easy to make international flights from Columbia now by taking the midday flight to Atlanta.

I honestly believed we'd NEVER see direct, non-stop flights to Atlanta from Columbia, but I'm THRILLED that I've been proven wrong.

I hope that the community of those who fly will continue to check the Delta Web site for the fare out of Columbia before automatically booking the flight out of St. Louis or KC. We've GOT to support our local airport. Sometimes the fare is less from COU than from KC or STL, and even if it's not, you've got to consider the cost of gas to drive to KC or STL plus the parking fee you'll have to pay at those airports.

Hopefully Delta will see that they've got a groundswell of support from the community with this new flight, and will continue to expand service. A flight to MSP or SLC would be great, too, for people traveling to points west of CoMo.

Cheers to Delta!

(Report Comment)
Nikki Tekeei March 2, 2012 | 11:31 a.m.

Finally, after suffering through those awful flights through Memphis - which were usually more inconvenient than just driving to STL or MCI - COU will be a more viable option for national and international travel. This is so exciting!

(Report Comment)
John Sullins March 6, 2012 | 1:27 p.m.

I added left a comment last week which was reviewed and approved by your staff. I noticed that the comment has been removed. Can you explain?

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer March 6, 2012 | 2:17 p.m.

Hi, John. Is this the comment you mean, or was there another one?

Joy Mayer,
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)

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