COLUMBIA — Delta Air Lines will begin offering two daily flights from Columbia Regional Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport beginning Sept. 5, city officials said Monday. It also will offer two flights from Atlanta to Columbia beginning on the same date.
On June 7, Delta added one flight to and from Atlanta to its daily service, along with two flights to Memphis International Airport. Beginning Sept. 5, it will offer only one flight to and from Memphis on Sunday through Friday.
Beginning Sept. 5, Columbia Regional Airport will have a new schedule for departing flights.
Sunday through Friday:
Memphis at 6:30 a.m.
Atlanta at 11:35 a.m.
Atlanta at 5:05 p.m.
Atlanta at 7 a.m.
Atlanta at 2 p.m.
"We periodically tweak a schedule if there is a lot of demand," Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter said, adding that the company frequently alters flight schedules to fit customers' desires.
Banstetter said Hartsfield-Jackson is Delta's largest hub and offers many international connections.
Steven Sapp, spokesman for the city's Public Works Department, said Delta has enjoyed more than 80 percent occupancy rates on all its flights from Columbia since adding the Atlanta hub. A total of 3,397 passengers boarded planes at the airport in June, while another 3,444 arrived in Columbia on Delta jets.
It appears Delta is anticipating MU's football games against Southeastern Conference opponents in the coming season. On Sept. 9, the day after MU's game against the University of Georgia, for example, the airline will offer three flights from Columbia to Atlanta. Sapp said that, as of last week, only 14 seats on those flights were still available.
The addition of the Atlanta flights also has made it easier for travel agencies in Columbia to book flights abroad.
"We've always done really well with flights out of Columbia," said Lisa Bright, manager and travel consultant for Great Southern Travels. "But adding the Atlanta flight has made it a lot easier."
Bright said Hartsfield-Jackson is a much larger hub for airlines and that it opens up many cities for easier scheduling. For destinations such as Greensboro, N.C., traveling through Memphis requires two layovers, while traveling to Atlanta requires only one.
Atlanta also is an easier hub for international travelers, particularly those flying to Europe, Bright said.
Branstetter said Delta at this point has no plans to altogether eliminate flights to and from Memphis.
Meanwhile, City Manager Mike Matthes told Boone County commissioners on Monday that the city is forging ahead with efforts to add more mainstream air service. Matthes said several airlines have expressed interest in Columbia and have made site visits. He said he hopes to strike a deal by the end of the year.
Matthes also said he wants to add more planes that can hold 60 or more people. The city is also working on a new runway at the airport that would help make that possible.