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.
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.
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.