Mayor announces tentative agreement for new flights to Chicago, Dallas

Thursday, October 11, 2012 | 5:47 p.m. CDT; updated 9:05 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 11, 2012
Mayor Bob McDavid, right, and City Manager Mike Matthes speak about adding flights to the Columbia Regional Airport on Thursday at the Daniel Boone City Building. They announced that American Eagle could start providing nonstop flights to Chicago and Dallas if the City Council approves it.

COLUMBIA — American Eagle airlines could add new flights between Columbia Regional Airport and Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth in February, Mayor Bob McDavid announced Thursday.

Flights between Columbia and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport would occur twice daily, McDavid said, while flights to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport would run once a day.

A revenue guarantee fund raised by city officials and the Chamber of Commerce that would protect airlines from losses they might incur from adding flights to Columbia was a factor in negotiations with the airline, McDavid said.

The new flights are subject to approval by the Columbia City Council, the contributors to the revenue guarantee and by American Airlines, of which American Eagle is a subsidiary.

If these flights are added, Columbia will have direct service to three of the four largest hubs in the country, McDavid said.

"I don't think you could find a city in the United States more than one stop from Columbia starting next spring," McDavid said.

The contributors to the revenue guarantee included the Zimmer Radio Group, the Chamber of Commerce, MU, Boone County, Cole County and Jefferson City, McDavid said. The fund now includes more than $3.3 million, he said.

McDavid said the flight to Chicago is especially valuable for MU because it will help it attract more out-of-state students. The university contributed to the revenue guarantee fund in the hopes that new flights would increase its appeal in other regions, McDavid said.

McDavid, however, expressed concern that the new flights would worsen the airport's passenger capacity problem.

"We are woefully under capacity at the airport and we will need a substantial expansion of the airport terminal," McDavid said. The city council recently appropriated funds to expand the terminal with double-wide trailers.

A terminal expansion would cost $17 million or more, McDavid said, based on a conceptual drawing completed in January by architectural firm Reynolds, Smith & Hills. He said the airport would need space for 300 people and three gates.

"We'll look at all sorts of funds — federal, local, state," McDavid said.

City officials and business leaders have been negotiating with American Airlines since January, McDavid said.

McDavid said that local Columbia businessman Tom Baumgardner, who died in May, introduced him to John Bachmann, a member of the board of American Airlines, in January, opening the door for negotiations.

"To have a loyal Columbian to get us in the room was very helpful," McDavid said.

The City Council will hold an open session at 5 p.m. Friday to discuss the flights, City Manager Mike Matthes said. At its meeting Monday, the council will read an ordinance for approving the agreement. The council will vote on it at a special meeting at 8 a.m. Oct. 22.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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Toni Messina October 12, 2012 | 9:59 a.m.

The ordinance introducing the proposed agreement will be read the first time at the Oct. 12 special meeting. Normal practice for first reading is to read the title and not engage in much, if any discussion. The public conversation will be at the City Council's Oct. 15 meeting, on the Old Business part of its agenda. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Of course, public is welcome to all these sessions.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders October 12, 2012 | 10:43 a.m.

Great, more welfare to support failing enterprises utilized by those who can afford to pay their own way.

At this rate, the City will be bankrupt... (er... I mean federalized) much sooner than I've previously anticipated. (I've been expecting budget cuts, yet it grows larger every year, adding more overhead to the cost of living in Columbia.)

Worse yet, this spending will impact every other area of the local economy where it could've instead been used for sustainable enterprises, rather than the fantasy of "if we build it, they will come."

Instead of saving the City via growth, they are condemning it to an even far worse fate, debt enslavement to the private banking cartel that rules the world.

For those who don't believe me, well, watch this video about how the "bailouts" of the last decade have done nothing but make the rich richer, while impoverishing the formerly middle class.

Simply put, Warren Buffet is not your friend. He is a con artist of the highest caliber.

As I stated yesterday, massive price increases in ALL things we need to survive are coming. And this is on top of the already highest ever price for gas at this time of the year, despite a complete collapse in demand.

We can pretend this crime in progress is a "good thing," fostering our cognitive dissonance, or we take the mature route and observe reality instead. Well, if we want any real solutions, that is.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 12, 2012 | 12:07 p.m.

Warren Buffett is a hypocrite, just like anyone else who says, "I wouldn't mind paying a bit more in taxes" but then continues to pay only what they're required to.

News flash: If you believe that the government is underfunded, you've always had the option of contributing more. The feds will deposit your check. They even take credit cards:

Pay up or shut up.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 12, 2012 | 12:24 p.m.

Sadly, this is no reflection on the commercial viability of Columbia Regional Airport, but rather the natural outcome of offering a $3 million "revenue guarantee," with a growing share coming from taxpayers.

It's not our business to "protect airlines from losses they may incur by coming to Columbia." It's their business to ascertain if losses are possible, and if they want to bear those losses. In many respects, such a revenue guarantee might even be inviting failure, as the airport's sketchy history suggests.

The next big push will be for taxpayers to pay the $17 million + tab required to accommodate the revenue guaranteed airlines.

Could Columbia go bankrupt, as Mr. Saunders predicts?

Sure it could. The corporate welfare state we are creating is not sustainable, especially coupled with the self-serving spending binge -- nearly $100 million in new offices and facilities -- local government has embarked on in recent years.

Mike Martin

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 12, 2012 | 12:37 p.m.

And let's not forget the other $100M: unfunded pension liabilities.

For $4K-$5K per flight, wouldn't it be cheaper for the city just to reimburse the parking fees for everyone who drives to STL or KC to catch a flight?

(Report Comment)

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